Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced S. 3519, the "Ag Small Business Opportunity and Enhancement Act," which would allow interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry. There are currently 28 states with their own meat and poultry inspection systems. In introducing the legislation, Hatch said, "In my view, it's absurd that meat inspected in 34 foreign countries can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. without restriction, but small businesses in 28 states are prohibited from shipping their products across state lines, even though these small businesses meet the same federal food safety requirements as their foreign competitors."

This issue has been debated in Congress for more than 20 years and will be raised again during consideration of the 2007 farm bill.
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent