June 7, 2013
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued new regulations for the Cooperative Interstate Shipment program (CIS), which was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. The program clears the way for small meat plants that have 25 or fewer employees and use inspectors employed by state agencies rather than USDA to ship meat out of state.
As of Jan. 31, three states (Ohio, North Dakota and Wisconsin) and eight establishments in two of those states had been selected to participate in the program.
This week, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported results of a mandated audit to determine the effectiveness of USDA's implementation of the program. The audit found USDA's Implementation of the CIS addresses most key Farm Bill requirements, but additional action is needed.
The auditors found the FSIS technical assistance division had not coordinated with other USDA agencies to provide outreach, education and training to establishments as required by the 2008 Farm Bill. Also, FSIS gave funds to four states to assess what they would need to do to meet the program requirements and to serve as models for other states. FSIS did not collect information from those four states to share with other states.
The report also notes a wide discrepancy in the frequency of FSIS oversight visits to plants in the CIS program versus other state-inspected plants.
Finally, the federal program specifies that state inspections that convey federal marks be identical to federal inspections. The audit report notes, however, that 2013 cooperative agreements with states specify a lesser standard inconsistent with those requirements.
Reprinted in part from CattleNetwork.com