Congress is being urged to act promptly on bipartisan legislation that would allow interstate sales of state-inspected meat and poultry products.

State ag officials say H.R. 6130, “New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act,” will resolve a basic inequity that's existed since 1967. Removing the current ban on interstate sales will level the playing field for small business, spur more marketplace competition, and create a more uniform inspection system. They contend no other food commodities inspected by state authorities are prohibited from being shipped across state lines.

Three USDA advisory committees have recommended the ban on interstate sales of state-inspected meat be removed because it would create jobs and stimulate rural economic development.

The 1967 and 1968 Meat and Poultry Acts prohibit state-inspected products (beef, poultry, pork, lamb, and goat) from sale in interstate commerce, though they must equal or exceed federal inspection standards. However, the ban doesn't apply to “non-amenable” products such as venison, pheasant, quail, rabbit, and a host of others. These products are normally regulated by state inspection programs, yet can be shipped in interstate commerce without restriction.

What's more, foreign-produced meat and poultry products can be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the U.S. as long as that foreign country's inspection program is equivalent to U.S. federal standards. In practice, these are the same standards state meat inspection programs must meet.