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New agreement between Montana, USDA allows meat processors to ship across state lines

The USDA is expecting Americans to eat record amounts of meat this year.

Some Montana-based meat and poultry processing facilities can now ship products across state lines as part of a new agreement announced today between the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA will allow processors that meet certain standards to ship meat beyond Montana. Around 30 facilities are eligible to participate in the program.

Mike Honeycutt, head of the Montana Department of Livestock, says the cooperative agreement creates new markets for producers bringing livestock and poultry to state-inspected facilities.

“You can open up the opportunity for internet sales or doing retail contracts with grocery stores that operate in more than one state,” he said.

Honeycutt hopes processing more meat in Montana will give livestock and poultry producers here a bigger chunk of the supply chain, as well as "the opportunity for job growth and return of tax revenues to local communities,” he said.

In a statement, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin said the agreement is part of a move to create more resilient food systems and “increase competition in agricultural markets across America."

Montana joins nine other states that participate in USDA interstate meat and poultry shipping agreements, including Vermont and the Dakotas.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.