Wyden, Merkley Welcome Federal Approval of Oregon’s State Meat Inspection Program

Washington, D.C. –
U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today welcomed approval by the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of Oregon’s rules and regulations for a
state meat inspection program that meets USDA standards.

follows a letter
from Wyden and Merkley to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as months
of follow-up and discussion, pressing for a review of the state meat inspection
program. The Oregon senators noted in their letter that large meat packing
facilities have been hurt by the pandemic and left unable to process livestock,
putting Oregon farmers and ranchers at risk of losing their businesses, and
families unable to have access to affordable food.

announcement is great news for Oregon farmers and ranchers as well as for
Oregon consumers facing the uncertainty of supply chain disruptions driving up
the costs at the grocery store for our state’s world-renowned beef,” Wyden
said. “This USDA approval will open up
more processing options for our state’s hard-working agricultural producers,
 helping them to build on the strengths of their local small businesses
that generate jobs and economic activity in rural communities throughout

“This announcement
is great news for Oregonians,” said Senator Merkley. “This approval will help Oregon farmers and
ranchers process their livestock locally and provide affordable food to all
Oregonians. Our ranchers and farmers are vital to a strong economy in Oregon,
and I am happy to see that the USDA approved Oregon’s meat inspection program.”

The agreement between the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection
Service and Oregon lets the state program inspect meat products produced for
shipment within the state. Under the cooperative agreement, the state
inspection program must develop, administer, and enforce requirements “at least
equal to” those imposed under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

”The approval of the
State of Oregon’s Meat Inspection program is nothing short of AMAZING for the
potential it brings for our farmers and ranchers across our state for
processing and increased economic opportunities within our state,” said
Lauren Henderson, Deputy Director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “This effort has been in the making for
several years and is a result of collaborative work between our federal
delegation, state and local officials, and our agricultural partners.

“This is great news
for Oregon ranchers who will now have more options for selling their cattle
into markets. This is a great value add to beef raised in Oregon,” said
State Rep. Mark Owens (R-Crane). “During
COVID, it became evident that our meat processing infrastructure lacked the
flexibility we needed. We need to keep our rural ag producers in business, and
feed hungry Oregonians. I want to personally thank both our Senators for their
continued advocacy for rural Oregon communities.”  

“I appreciate
Senators Wyden and Merkley for their assistance with USDA’s regulation and
rulemaking for Oregon’s State Meat Inspection Program,” said State
Representative David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford). “Having drafted the state bill back in the ‘17 Legislative Session,
Covid exposed the protein supply chain issues across the country. Working with
legislative leadership, I was able to redraft the bill and move HB
during the first Special Session of 2020, which passed both chambers
unanimously. I’m grateful for Assistant Director Henderson and ODA staff for
all of their fantastic work as well as Rep. Owens and my colleagues for their
support. This will be a game changer for Oregon ranchers and assist them in
providing locally sourced beef, lamb and protein to consumers across the State
of Oregon,”

“The signing today
between the USDA and the State of Oregon of the Cooperative Agreement for State
Meat Inspection is definitely a monumental positive milestone in the pursuit of
food security and sustainability for Oregonians,” said long-time Eastern Oregon rancher
Curtis Martin, board member and treasurer of the Oregon Beef Council. “This agreement is a critical step towards
locally sourced meat protein being more available to our great Oregon consumers
and customers. Oregon beef and meat producers raise the highest quality
protein, and this partnership will help provide the increased economy, transparency
from growers, plus reliability with sustainable pricing to
consumers. I tremendously appreciate Oregon’s legislative team for
the long endurance it has taken to finally achieve this totally positive,
proactive agreement after decades of trying to make it happen. As an Oregon grassroots beef producer, I
extend my utmost, heartfelt thanks to the Oregon Department of Agriculture,
Senators Wyden and Merkley, their staff and all who persevered to see this
through. A great accomplishment,
for sure.”

“I appreciate any
options to connect producers with consumers and introduce competitiveness into
the marketplace,” said third-generation Gilliam County rancher Tom
Rietmann. “Processing closer to our
ranches has a lower carbon footprint and it’s better for the cattle.  In
my situation, having more timely access to processing would have saved me
thousands of dollars this year. Better access to meat processing facilities is
a win-win for everyone.”
“This program
is a huge win, decades in the making,” said Susannah Morgan, Oregon
Food Bank CEO. “This program marks
a major milestone for community agriculture in Oregon, and will benefit
all Oregonians – most notably those among us facing hunger by addressing
climbing food prices and creating pathways for local producers to donate meat
to the Oregon Food Bank Network. By reducing systemic barriers and increasing
access to food, we can ensure our communities have the food they need to not
only survive but thrive.”