The Iowa Department of Agriculture says an agreement that is designed to help small-size meat processing facilities is moving ahead.

Iowa Ag Secretary, Mike Naig, says it involved lockers with fewer than 25 employees. “We’ve got a new cooperative interstate shipment program that will allow them to sell products across state lines for the first time,” according to Naig. “They’ll remain a state inspected locker — but they’ll be able to sell across state lines. And we think this is just a great opportunity that will have a long-lasting impact for these folks.”

Without this agreement meat processed at a small-town butcher shop would have to be inspected a second time by federal inspectors before it could be marketed anywhere beyond Iowa’s borders. Naig says the deal has been in the works long before the COVID-19 issues with the meat supply chain. He says the process started last June as small meat lockers and processors came to him asked about it. Naig says then they started working with the U.S.D.A. on it.

Naig says the current coronavirus impact on the supply chain has helped push this forward as livestock producers are trying to be creative for marketing their livestock. The capacity of the large processors dropped with COVID-19 outbreaks and that has led to some producers euthanizing their animals as they have no place to take them.

“It is not terribly widespread yet — but each day that the plants don’t run at full capacity is a day that we are adding to that backlog,” Naig says. “The situation continues to improve with our packing plants, I think as of today (Wednesday), we are running right around 72 to 73 percent of our normal capacity. So, it’s going to take us some time to get back up to that normal capacity that we know we need.”

Iowa is the seventh state, to enter an agreement. Those lockers that enter the agreement will still have periodic visits from federal inspectors.

(Story and photo by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)