Twenty-seven states have their own meat and/or poultry inspection programs covering nearly 1,900 small or very small establishments. These programs were authorized by the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1967 (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1968 (PPIA). The states run the programs cooperatively with FSIS, which provides up to 50% of the funds for operating them, comprising about $65 million of the total FSIS budget annually. A state program operating under a cooperative agreement with FSIS must demonstrate that its system is equivalent to federal inspection; however, state-inspected meat and poultry products are limited to intrastate commerce only, unless a state opts into an additional cooperative program, the Cooperative Interstate Shipment of State Inspected Meats program (more on this program below). In states that have discontinued their inspection systems for meat or poultry (or both), FSIS has assumed responsibility for inspection at the formerly state-inspected plants.
Approximately 360 meat and poultry establishments in nine states are covered by yet another separate federal-state program, the so-called Talmadge-Aiken plants. Under this program, USDA has signed cooperative agreements with states whereby state employees are used to conduct federal inspections, and passed products carry the federal mark of inspection. Established by the Talmadge-Aiken Act of 1962, the arrangement was intended to achieve federal coverage in remote locations to offset the higher cost of assigning federal inspectors there.
As noted, federal law long prohibited state-inspected meat and poultry plants from shipping their products across state lines, a ban that many states and small plants have wanted to overturn. Limiting state-inspected products to intrastate commerce is unfair, these states and plants argued, because their programs must be, and are, “at least equal” to the federal system. While state-inspected plants could not ship interstate, foreign plants operating under USDA-approved foreign programs, which must be “equivalent” to the U.S. program, have been permitted to export meat and poultry products into and sell them anywhere in the United States.
In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress amended the FMIA and the PPIA to authorize a new opt-in program for state-inspected plants. This program is to supplement rather than replace the existing federal-state cooperative inspection program. In states that choose to participate, the state inspection program must be the “same as” the federal inspection program and a federally employed coordinator would supervise state inspectors in plants that want to ship across state lines. Eligible plants are limited to those with 25 or fewer employees. The law sets federal reimbursement for state costs under the new program at 60%. Products inspected under the new program are to carry the federal mark of inspection, and meet all FMIA and PPIA requirements. Other provisions prohibit federally inspected establishments from participation, establish a new technical assistance division to assist the states, and require periodic audits by USDA, among other things. Rules, published in 2012, allow implementation of the program; a few states that have existing state meat and/or poultry inspection programs have applied for the opt-in program.