July 28, 2022

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

USDA OK for State Program Follows Senators’ Advocacy for Innovative Local Approach To Help Oregon Farmers, Ranchers and Consumers

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.

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 Oregon.”

“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."