U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has introduced the "New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act of 2006," which would allow interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry. In his introduction, Blunt said, "There are 2,000 state-inspected meat processors -- 31 of them in Missouri -- that are prevented from competing in the national marketplaces. Yet, 30 foreign meat-producing countries can sell their meats freely across the nation. Our locally produced, state-inspected meats are just as safe. In fairness, this measure will promote the local livestock sector of ag without compromising food safety that consumers demand."

There are 28 state-run inspection programs. USDA would have to verify the programs are equal to the federal-inspection system for federally inspected plants. This issue has been debated by Congress since the early 1980s.
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent