Wyden, Merkley welcome federal approval of Oregon’s state meat inspection program

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

The USDA approval 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.

“Today’s 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
4206 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.”