[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 84 (Monday, May 2, 2011)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 24714-24759]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office
[FR Doc No: 2011-9865]



[[Page 24713]]

Vol. 76

Monday,

No. 84

May 2, 2011

Part III





Department of Agriculture





-----------------------------------------------------------------------



Food Safety and Inspection Service



-----------------------------------------------------------------------



9 CFR Parts 321, 332, and 381



Cooperative Inspection Programs: Interstate Shipment of Meat and 
Poultry Product; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 84 / Monday, May 2, 2011 / Rules and 
Regulations

[[Page 24714]]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Parts 321, 332, and 381

[Docket No. FSIS-2008-0039]
RIN 0583-AD37


Cooperative Inspection Programs: Interstate Shipment of Meat and 
Poultry Products

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is amending the 
Federal meat and poultry products inspection regulations to establish a 
new voluntary cooperative program under which State-inspected 
establishments with 25 or fewer employees will be eligible to ship meat 
and poultry products in interstate commerce. In participating States, 
State-inspected establishments selected to take part in this program 
will be required to comply with all Federal standards under the Federal 
Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act 
(PPIA). These establishments will receive inspection services from 
State inspection personnel that have been trained in the enforcement of 
the FMIA and PPIA. Meat and poultry products produced under the program 
that have been inspected and passed by designated State personnel will 
bear an official Federal mark of inspection and will be permitted to be 
distributed in interstate commerce. FSIS will provide oversight and 
enforcement of the program.

DATES: Effective Date: July 1, 2011.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Engeljohn, Assistant 
Administrator, Office of Policy and Program Development, Room 350-E, 
Jamie L. Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, 
DC 20250; Telephone (202) 720-2709, Fax (202) 720-2025.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) (21 U.S.C. 601, et seq.) and 
the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) (21 U.S.C. 451, et seq.) 
(``the Acts'') require that FSIS protect the public by ensuring that 
meat and poultry products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. 
The Acts require Federal inspection and provide for Federal regulation 
of meat and poultry products prepared for distribution in commerce for 
use as human food.
    Cooperative State inspection programs. Section 661 of the FMIA and 
454 of the PPIA authorize FSIS to cooperate with State agencies in 
developing and administering their own meat or poultry products 
inspection programs for the inspection and regulation of products that 
are produced and sold solely within the State (21 U.S.C. 661 & 454). 
These cooperative State inspection programs are required to operate in 
a manner and with authorities ``at least equal to,'' but not 
necessarily identical to, the provisions set out in the FMIA and PPIA 
(21 U.S.C. 661 (a)(1) & 454 (a)(1)). The ``at least equal to'' standard 
is a concept that requires that State MPI Programs operate in a manner 
that is at least as effective as those standards adopted for the 
Federal inspection program. The Acts provide for FSIS to contribute up 
to 50 percent of the cost of the cooperative State inspection programs, 
as long as the State programs are effectively enforcing requirements 
that are ``at least equal to'' the Federal program (21 U.S.C. 661 
(a)(3) & 454 (a)(3)).
    Section 11015 of Title XI of The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act 
of 2008 (``the 2008 Farm Bill''), enacted on June 18, 2008, amended the 
Acts to establish a new cooperative inspection program under which 
certain State-inspected establishments will be eligible to ship meat 
and poultry products in interstate commerce (Pub. L. 110-246, 112 Stat. 
1651; 21 U.S.C. 683 and 472). The amendments to the Acts provide that 
the Secretary of Agriculture (FSIS by delegation), ``in coordination 
with the appropriate State agency of the State in which the 
establishment is located,'' may select State-inspected establishments 
with 25 or fewer employees to ship meat and poultry products in 
interstate commerce (21 U.S.C. 683 (b) and 472(b)). Inspection services 
for these establishments must be provided by State inspection personnel 
that have ``undergone all necessary inspection training and 
certification to assist the Secretary with the administration and 
enforcement of [the Acts]'' (21 U.S.C. 683(a)(2) and 472(a)(2)). Meat 
and poultry products inspected and passed by the State inspection 
personnel would bear a ``Federal mark, stamp, tag, or label of 
inspection'' and would be permitted to be shipped in interstate 
commerce (21 U.S.C. 683(b)(1) and 472(b)(1)).
    The law provides for the Secretary to ``designate an employee of 
the Federal government'' to ``provide oversight and enforcement'' of 
the program (21 U.S.C. 683(d)(1) and 472 (d)(1)). If the Federal 
employee finds that an establishment selected for the program is in 
violation of the Acts, he or she is required to ``deselect the selected 
establishment or suspend inspection at the selected establishment'' (21 
U.S.C. 683(d)(3)(c) and 472(d)(3)(c)). The law requires that any 
selected establishment that FSIS ``determines to be in violation of any 
requirement of the Act, be transitioned to be a Federal establishment'' 
(21 U.S.C. 683(h) and 472(g)).
    The law provides that FSIS is to reimburse a State for costs 
related to the inspection of establishments in the State selected for 
the program ``in an amount of not less than 60 percent of eligible 
State costs'' (21 U.S.C. 683(c) and 472(c)). The law also states that 
FSIS ``may provide grants to appropriate State agencies to assist the 
appropriate State agencies in helping establishments covered by this 
Act to transition to selected establishments'' (21 U.S.C. 683(g) and 
472(f)). The law is to take effect ``on the date on which the 
Secretary, after providing a period of public comment (including 
through the conduct of public meetings or hearings), promulgates final 
regulations to carry out [section 11015]'' (21 U.S.C. 683 (j)(1) and 
472((i)(1)).
    Proposed rule. On September 16, 2009, FSIS published proposed 
regulations to implement the new cooperative interstate shipment 
program (``Cooperative Inspection Programs: Interstate Shipment of Meat 
and Poultry Products,'' 74 FR 47648).
    FSIS held two public meetings by teleconference on October 27, 
2009, and November 4, 2009, to solicit comments on the proposed 
regulations (74 FR 54493). The comment period for the proposed rule was 
scheduled to close on November 16, 2009, but, in response to comments, 
was extended to December 16, 2009.
    In developing this final rule, FSIS considered all comments 
submitted in response to the September 2009 proposed rule, as well as 
those provided at the two teleconferences held in October and November 
2009. Based on its analysis of the issues, and on information provided 
by the comments, FSIS made certain changes to the proposed regulations. 
Those changes are summarized below and are discussed in detail in the 
Agency's responses to comments.
    For a more detailed discussion of section 11015 of the 2008 Farm 
Bill and FSIS's proposed implementing regulations, refer to the 
September 16, 2009, proposed rule.

[[Page 24715]]

II. Summary of Amendments to the Proposed Rule To Implement the 
Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program

    In this rulemaking, FSIS is finalizing, with some changes, the 
provisions in the September 2009 proposed rule. Specifically, the 
Agency is amending the proposal to:
     Revise the standards for determining an establishment's 
average number of employees for purposes of the cooperative interstate 
shipment program to exclude employees whose duties do not involve 
handling the meat or poultry products produced by the establishment (9 
CFR 332.3(b)(1) and (2) and 9 CFR 318.513(b)(1) and (2));
     Revise the standards for determining the average number of 
employees for purposes of the cooperative interstate shipment program 
to include uncompensated volunteers who are involved in handling the 
meat or poultry products produced by the establishment (9 CFR 
332.3(b)(6) and 381.515(b)(6));
     Allow States that have existing cooperative agreements for 
a State MPI program to submit a request to enter into an agreement with 
FSIS for a cooperative interstate shipment program before the States 
have identified establishments to recommend for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program (9 CFR 332.4(b)(1) and 381.514(b)(1));
     Identify factors that will be considered to determine the 
frequency with which the FSIS selected establishment coordinator (SEC) 
will visit selected establishments under his or her jurisdiction (9 CFR 
332.7(a) and 381.517(a));
     Give establishments that were deselected from the 
cooperative interstate shipment program because they are located in a 
State whose agreement for the program was terminated the option to 
either revert back to operating under the cooperative State MPI program 
or obtain a Federal grant of inspection (9 CFR 332.11(a) and 
381.521(a));
     Allow establishments that were deselected from the 
cooperative interstate shipment and successfully transitioned to become 
Federal establishments to revert back to the State MPI program after 
successfully operating as a Federal establishment for a year (9 CFR 
332.11(b) and 381.521(b));
     Allow establishments selected to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program to operate under both the State 
MPI program for the State where the establishment is located and the 
new cooperative interstate shipment program. State-inspected 
establishments that operate under both programs must maintain an 
appropriate separation of time or space between operations (9 CFR 
332.13 and 381.523);
     Allow selected establishments that are in full compliance 
with the requirements of the cooperative interstate shipment program to 
voluntarily end their participation in the program and revert back to 
the State MPI program (9 CFR 332.14 and 381.514);
     Codify the definition of ``eligible State costs'' to 
include those costs that a State has justified and FSIS has approved as 
necessary for the State to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State (9 CFR 321.3(b) and 381.187(b)).

III. Comments and Responses

    FSIS received approximately 90 separate comment letters in response 
to the September 2009 proposed regulations and approximately 5000 
identical comment letters submitted by a consumer advocacy organization 
on behalf of private citizens. Comments submitted by consumer advocacy 
organizations, private citizens, State farm bureaus, trade associations 
representing meat processors, and a labor union representing food and 
commercial workers expressed general support for the proposed 
regulations. Comments submitted by an association of State meat and 
food inspection directors, an association of State Departments of 
Agriculture, several State Departments of Agriculture and other State 
agencies, farm and agriculture advocacy organizations, Congress members 
providing comments on behalf of the State of Wisconsin, and private 
citizens expressed support for the concept of a cooperative interstate 
shipment program but objected to several provisions in FSIS's proposed 
implementing regulations. Other comments submitted by FSIS inspection 
personnel, small federally-inspected establishments, and one consumer 
advocacy organization opposed any program that would permit State-
inspected meat and poultry products in interstate commerce.
    Following is a discussion of these comments and FSIS's responses.

A. Development of the proposed rule

    Comment: Several comments criticized FSIS for not consulting with 
State officials during the development of the proposed regulations. The 
comments stated that several States and organizations of State 
officials had offered to form an advisory committee to assist FSIS in 
developing the proposed regulations to implement the cooperative 
interstate shipment program. As noted by the comments, FSIS determined 
that such a request was not practical due to the regulatory constraints 
and the statutory time-line for implementing this program. The comments 
encouraged FSIS to work closely with State inspection officials to 
develop final regulations to make the program as workable as possible. 
One comment said that creating an environment where state regulators 
and federal regulators work together consistently will provide the 
stability the program needs to be successful for all involved.
    Some comments suggested that FSIS use this rulemaking as an 
opportunity to encourage more State involvement in addressing the 
nation's food safety problem. The comments encouraged FSIS to accord 
considerable weight to comments submitted by States with exemplary food 
safety inspection histories and State-inspected establishments that 
likewise have exemplary histories when the Agency finalizes the 
proposed rule.
    Response: FSIS appreciates the States' willingness to participate 
in the development and implementation of the new cooperative interstate 
shipment program. In developing this final rule, FSIS carefully 
considered the comments and suggestions submitted by the States and, as 
a result, the Agency made certain revisions to the proposed 
regulations. FSIS will work closely with the States as the Agency moves 
forward to implement the cooperative interstate shipment program 
established in this final rule.
    Comment: A few comments stated that the teleconference format for 
the two public meetings that were held in October and November of 2009 
was not an appropriate way to generate comments on the proposed 
cooperative interstate shipment program. One comment noted that there 
were few comments presented during the teleconferences, which the 
commenter believed may be related to the format of the public meeting. 
One comment said that both teleconferences occurred on the same dates 
and times when FSIS was offering webinars for small and very small 
plant operators, which presented a conflict for those interested in 
participating in both meetings. Another comment complained that, 
although the commenter had registered for the teleconference and has a 
confirmation passcode to participate, the commenter was not allowed to 
speak during the meeting.
    Response: FSIS chose the teleconference format for the public 
meetings to provide individuals with

[[Page 24716]]

easier access to the meeting, particularly those who may lack the 
resources or time to attend a meeting in person. FSIS will consider the 
comments submitted on this issue to determine how it can improve its 
use of the teleconference format to conduct public meetings in the 
future.

B. General Support for and General Opposition to the Proposed Rule

1. Support for the Proposed Regulations
    Comment: Comments submitted by consumer advocacy organizations, 
private citizens, State farm bureaus, trade associations representing 
meat processors, and a labor union representing food and commercial 
workers expressed general support for FSIS's proposed regulations to 
implement the cooperative interstate shipment program. Some of these 
comments said that the language in Section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill 
reflects an agreement reached through negotiations between various 
national consumer organizations, the National Association of State 
Departments of Agriculture, the National Farmers Union, the American 
Federation of Government Employees, and the United Food and Commercial 
Workers Union. According to these comments, the language in section 
11015 was carefully crafted to meet the desire of some State-inspected 
meat plants to enlarge their area of sales while assuring that all meat 
and poultry sold across state lines meet federal inspection standards. 
The comments commended FSIS for writing proposed regulations that 
closely adhere to both the intent and specific language of the 
legislation.
    One comment noted that the program established in the proposed 
regulations builds on existing State inspection programs and includes 
important enhancements that can lead to stronger State inspection 
programs. The comment approved of the fact that, like the statute, the 
proposed regulations would not permit ``regulatory forum shopping.''
    Response: FSIS agrees that the proposed regulations are consistent 
with both the intent and language of the enabling legislation. The 
Agency also agrees that the program established in the proposed 
regulations will complement the existing State inspection programs.
2. Support Interstate Shipment but not the Program Proposed by FSIS
    Comment: Comments submitted by an organization of State Agriculture 
Departments, an organization of State meat inspection program 
Directors, several State Departments of Agriculture, State agencies, 
farm and agriculture advocacy organizations, and private citizens 
expressed support for the concept of a cooperative interstate shipment 
program but had concerns about FSIS's proposed regulations to implement 
the program. Many of these comments stated that, instead of allowing 
for the interstate shipment of state inspected products, FSIS's 
proposed regulations essentially set up another Federal inspection 
system under more stringent and inflexible provisions than the current 
Federal system. According to the comments, FSIS's proposed program 
fails to remove unnecessary barriers for small establishments to sell 
their specialty products across State lines. The comments asserted that 
the proposed regulations will create a regulatory system that is too 
burdensome for either establishments or State inspection programs, 
which likely means that few will take advantage of the program.
    To support these assertions, the comments noted that, when FSIS 
issued the proposed rule, the Agency estimated that approximately 60% 
(16 of 27) of the States with existing State MPI programs and 
approximately 200-600 establishments were interested in participating 
in the new cooperative interstate shipment program. The comments stated 
that after FSIS issued the proposed rule, an internal poll conducted by 
an organization of State official indicates that only 2 of these 27 
States, each with only a handful of establishments, now find the 
cooperative interstate shipment proposed by FSIS to be even potentially 
viable. According to the comments, without a drastic revision of the 
proposed regulations and active FSIS participation in cooperation with 
the State partners, the program is unlikely to succeed.
    Response: After careful consideration of all comments submitted in 
response to the 2009 proposed rule, FSIS modified the proposed 
regulations to provide some added flexibility for establishments 
selected to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program. 
For example, under this final rule, selected establishments that are in 
full compliance with the program will be permitted to voluntarily end 
their participation in the program. This final rule will also permit 
selected establishments to operate under both the cooperative 
interstate shipment program and the State's MPI program if they 
maintain an appropriate separation of time or space between operations. 
The Agency believes that these modifications, which are discussed in 
more detail in the Agency's response to comments, will provide 
additional incentive for some establishments to participate in the 
program.
3. Oppose any Program That Would Allow Interstate Shipment of State-
Inspected Product
    Comment: Comments submitted by FSIS inspection personnel, small 
federally-inspected meat and poultry processing establishments, and a 
consumer advocacy organization objected to any program that would 
permit state-inspected meat and poultry products to be shipped in 
interstate commerce. According to many of these comments, meat and 
poultry products produced in State-inspected establishments do not 
undergo the same level of inspection as products produced in Federal-
inspected facilities, and many State MPI programs are not truly ``at 
least equal to'' the Federal inspection program. A few comments 
referenced a 2006 Office of Inspector General Audit Report of State-
inspected meat and poultry programs that the comments said found that 
some State-inspected facilities had failed to operate in a sanitary 
manner and that FSIS had not provided consistent oversight of existing 
State MPI programs.
    Response: As required by law, the cooperative interstate shipment 
program established under this final rule will operate under the same 
standards imposed under the Federal inspection program. Thus, meat and 
poultry products produced in State-inspected establishments selected 
for the cooperative interstate shipment program will undergo the same 
level of inspection as products produced in federally-inspected 
facilities.
    With respect to the comment that many State MPI programs are not 
truly ``equal to'' the Federal inspection program, each year the FSIS 
OPEER Federal State Audit Branch reviews the State cooperative MPI 
programs and their requirements to verify that each State program ``at 
least equal to'' the Federal program. These comprehensive reviews 
consist of an annual review of the State MPI program's self assessment 
submission and an on-site review to verify the State's self-assessment 
submission. The onsite reviews are scheduled at a minimum, once every 
three years.
    Based on the self assessment documents received during FY 2009, 
FSIS determined that all of the 27 State MPI programs provided adequate 
documentation to support that they have implemented and can maintain 
MPI programs ``at least equal to'' the Federal program. FSIS determined 
that

[[Page 24717]]

all of the 11 State MPI programs reviewed on-site were enforcing 
requirements ``at least equal to'' those imposed under the Federal 
Acts.
    In its 2006 audit of the FSIS's cooperative State MPI programs, the 
OIG provided recommendations to strengthen FSIS's review of these 
programs. FSIS provided management decisions in response to the 2006 
OIG audit recommendations, which were accepted by OIG. The Agency has 
implemented the 2006 management decisions.
    Comment: One comment stated that State-inspected establishments 
should not be allowed to ship products interstate because the States do 
not have the money or staff to provide the inspection that the Federal 
government does. Another comment maintained that Federal inspectors 
undergo more extensive training than State inspection personnel and, 
therefore, unlike State inspectors, are continuously expanding their 
knowledge bases.
    Response: As discussed in greater detail below, to qualify for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program, States with cooperative State 
MPI programs will need to demonstrate that they have staffing 
sufficient to conduct the same inspection activities in establishments 
operating under the cooperative interstate shipment program that FSIS 
conducts in official Federal establishments. The States will also need 
to demonstrate that the designated State personnel have been properly 
trained in Federal inspection methodology. FSIS will not enter into an 
agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment program with States 
that are unable to meet these conditions.
    Comment: One comment submitted by a consumer advocacy organization 
said that while the commenter does not support State-inspected meat and 
poultry for either intrastate or interstate commerce, it understands 
that Congress amended the FMIA and PPIA to establish the cooperative 
interstate shipment program, and that FSIS is required to develop 
regulations to implement the law. The comment urged the Agency to put 
into place a system whereby establishments that participate in the 
program are held to the identical Federal standards and practices as 
those establishments under Federal inspection and that the Agency 
maintain strict oversight of such a program.
    Response: The cooperative interstate shipment program established 
in these final regulations will be a State inspection program under 
which designated State-personnel enforce Federal food safety standards. 
As required by law, FSIS will provide oversight and enforcement of the 
program.
    Comment: Several comments submitted by FSIS inspection personnel 
and small federally-inspected meat and poultry processors maintained 
that instead of establishing cooperative interstate shipment program, 
FSIS should require that State-inspected establishments that desire to 
ship their meat and poultry products in interstate commerce come under 
Federal inspection.
    One comment submitted by a small federally-inspected establishment 
explained that as a small company, it decided to obtain a Federal grant 
of inspection as an investment for the future of its business. The 
comment noted that the establishment did this to allow for interstate 
sales of its products and that the same option is available today for 
any company willing to make a similar investment. The comment asserted 
that to provide for a level playing field, all small companies that 
want to sell their products across state lines should be required to go 
through the same process and obtain a Federal grant of inspection.
    Response: Section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill amended the FMIA and 
PPIA to establish the cooperative interstate shipment program. The 
amendments require that FSIS issue final regulations to implement the 
new program. Once the new program becomes effective, small State-
inspected establishments that are interested in selling meat or poultry 
products across State lines will have the option to operate as a 
selected establishment under the cooperative interstate shipment 
program or as an official Federal establishment. An establishment that 
ships products across States lines must comply with all Federal 
standards regardless of the inspection program that it chooses to 
operate under.
    Comment: One comment said that the cooperative interstate shipment 
program is not necessary because the Talmadge/Aiken program serves the 
same purpose.
    Response: The Talmadge-Aiken program and the cooperative interstate 
shipment program serve different purposes. Under the Talmadge-Aiken 
program, FSIS enters into a separate agreement with a State agency for 
the State program to conduct meat, poultry, or egg products inspection 
or other regulatory activities on behalf of FSIS. Establishments that 
participate in the Talmadge-Aiken program operate under a Federal grant 
of inspection. Under the cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS 
enters into a separate agreement with a State agency to enforce Federal 
food safety standards at State-inspected establishments. Establishments 
that participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program are not 
Federal establishments operating under a Federal grant of inspection.
    Comment: Comments submitted by a few FSIS inspection personnel 
opposed the proposed cooperative interstate shipment stated because the 
commenters believe that the program will result in a reduction in the 
Federal inspection force. The comments stated that under such a 
program, small federally-inspected establishments will want to drop 
their Federal grant of inspection and produce products under State-
inspection, thereby taking jobs that would otherwise belong to Federal 
employees and giving them to State employees.
    Response: Under the law and implementing regulations, 
establishments that operate under the Federal inspection program are 
ineligible to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program. The new program is limited to certain small and very small 
State-inspected establishments. Thus, the cooperative interstate 
shipment program will have little effect on Federal inspection 
personnel.
    Comment: One comment objected to allowing the interstate shipment 
of state-inspected products because, according to the comment, FSIS 
will no longer have control or jurisdiction over some meat and poultry 
products in interstate commerce. The comment noted that a State's 
jurisdiction is limited to the State's borders. The comment asked what 
would happen if product produced by a State-inspected establishment is 
implicated in a food safety issue resulting in a recall.
    Response: Under the law, FSIS is responsible for providing 
oversight and enforcement of the cooperative interstate shipment 
program. Therefore, if an establishment operating under the cooperative 
interstate shipment program distributes meat or poultry products that 
present a food safety hazard or that need to be recalled for other 
reasons, FSIS will coordinate with the State MPI program to ensure that 
such product is removed from commerce. FSIS will be responsible for the 
overall coordination of the recall and for verifying that recalled 
product that has been shipped interstate has been removed from 
commerce.

C. Establishment Participation--Conditions for Eligibility and 
Standards for Determining Average Number of Employees

    The proposed rule prescribed conditions that State-inspected

[[Page 24718]]

establishments would be required to meet to become eligible to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program. Consistent 
with the law, among these proposed conditions were that an 
establishment be in compliance with all Federal inspection requirements 
under the FMIA, PPIA, and their implementing regulations, and that the 
establishment employ, on average, no more than 25 individuals. The 
proposed rule also included proposed standards for determining the 
average number of employees, which, for the most part, reflect 
applicable methods used by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to 
calculate the number of employees for a small business concern. FSIS 
received several comments on the proposed conditions for establishment 
eligibility and the proposed standards for determining the average 
number of employees.
1. Compliance With Federal Standards
    Comment: Some comments agreed that State-inspected establishments 
should be required to comply with Federal standards to be eligible for 
the cooperative interstate shipment program. The comments stated that 
many small and very small establishments have managed to conform to, 
and operate successfully under, the requirements of the Federal 
inspection system. Two comments noted that data obtained from FSIS's 
PBIS in 2007 show that 51 percent (2,878 of 5,603) of all federally-
inspected establishments have 10 or fewer employees and 80% have 50 or 
fewer employees.
    The comments also noted that all establishments that prepare or 
process meat and poultry products have always had the opportunity to 
ship their products in interstate commerce provided that they apply for 
and receive a Federal grant of inspection. The comments stated that 
small and very small establishments now under Federal inspection have 
invested time and money to comply with all Federal regulations and to 
operate under Federal standards. The comments asserted that while the 
new cooperative interstate shipment program is intended to offer 
establishments operating under their State inspection program an 
opportunity to broaden their distribution, any establishment that ships 
meat or poultry products in interstate commerce can and should meet 
Federal food safety standards.
    Other comments stated that requiring that State-inspected 
establishments comply with Federal food safety standards in order to be 
eligible for the cooperative interstate shipment program will establish 
unfair barriers for small plants to participate in the program. The 
comments urged FSIS to provide small State-inspected establishments 
with greater flexibility in achieving food safety standards. One 
comment from a small State-inspected establishment stated that it 
cannot afford Federal inspection. The comment noted that establishments 
operating under the State MPI system are required to adhere to very 
strict food safety standards but, unlike the Federal system, State 
inspection personnel are also available to help the small and very 
small establishments with education and training.
    Response: The amendments to the Acts in section 11015 of the 2008 
Farm Bill require that State-inspected establishments be in compliance 
with all Federal standards in order to be eligible for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program. The provisions in the Acts that establish 
the cooperative interstate shipment program define an ``eligible 
establishment'' as an establishment that is in compliance with both ``* 
* * the State inspection program of the State in which the 
establishment is located'' and ``[the FMIA or PPIA], including the 
rules and regulations issued under [the FMIA or PPIA]'' (21 U.S.C. 
472(a)(3) and 683(a)(3)).
    The Senate Conference Committee report on the bill that established 
the cooperative interstate shipment program also makes clear that 
establishments selected for the program ``* * * must fully follow [the 
FMIA or PPIA], its regulations, notices, directives and policies just 
as would be required of a Federal establishment'' (S. Rep. No. 220, 
110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007), pp. 211-214). Thus, requiring that 
State-inspected establishments comply with Federal food safety 
standards to become eligible to participate in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program is consistent with both the language and 
intent of section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill.
    FSIS's Office of Outreach, Employee Education, and Training (OOEET) 
will provide technical resources, information, and guidance to small 
and very-small State establishments that are interested in becoming 
eligible to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program.
2. Determining Average Number of Employees
    a. Proposed standard: All individuals, both supervisory and non-
supervisory, employed by the establishment on a full-time, part-time, 
or temporary basis are to be counted when calculating the total number 
of employees.
    Comment: Several comments stated that for purposes of the 
cooperative interstate shipment program, an establishment's average 
number of employees should be based only on those directly involved in 
the preparation or processing of meat and poultry products. The 
comments noted that many small and very small establishments conduct 
operations other than the processing of meat or poultry products, such 
as grocery stores, convenience stores, or other retail outlets. 
According to the comments, employees that do not perform duties related 
to the meat or poultry processing operations of the business should not 
be included when calculating the average number of employees.
    One comment suggested that FSIS consider basing the ``value'' 
associated with the employee on the workers compensation code that the 
employer designates. The commenter said that it could give FSIS a 
simple way of determining which workers are associated with the meat 
processing part of the business and which employees offer other roles 
for the company, such as administrative workers or retail clerks.
    Other comments said that all establishment personnel, including 
those not involved in the actual production of meat and poultry 
products, should be counted when calculating the average number of 
employees. One comment noted that the law specifically states that 
supervisory and nonsupervisory employees are to be counted when 
calculating the average number of employees. The comment maintained 
that this indicates that if Congress had intended to exclude certain 
employees from the calculation, it would have expressly stated so in 
the law. The comment urged FSIS to require that temporary and part-time 
employees, regardless of their position in the establishment, be 
counted when determining the average number of employees.
    Response: Although the law limits participation in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program to State-inspected establishments that 
employ, on average, 25 or fewer employees, it does not distinguish 
between employees involved in an establishment's meat or poultry 
processing operations from those that are not. Counting all individuals 
employed by the establishment would ensure that participation in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program is limited to very small and 
certain small establishments. Counting only

[[Page 24719]]

employees directly involved in the preparation or processing of meat 
and poultry products would create a more flexible standard that would 
expand the number of potentially eligible establishments to include 
those that have a small number of employees that work in meat or 
poultry processing but a larger number of employees that work in other 
areas of their business.
    The 2008 amendments to the Acts give FSIS the authority to define 
``average number of employees'' for purposes of the cooperative 
interstate shipment program, but they also make clear that the program 
is intended for State-inspected establishments that employ a limited 
number of individuals. Therefore, FSIS is adopting a standard for 
calculating the average number of employees that provides some 
flexibility for establishments that conduct operations other than meat 
or poultry processing, but that also clearly distinguishes those 
employees that are to be counted for purposes of the interstate 
shipment program from those that are not.
    Therefore, instead of counting all individuals employed by the 
establishment as proposed, under this final rule, an establishment's 
average number of employees will be calculated by counting all 
individuals employed by the establishment, excluding the employees that 
do not come into contact with the meat or poultry products produced by 
the establishment. For example, if the owner of a gas station produces 
beef jerky and sells it at the gas station, the employees that are 
involved in producing the jerky, as well as those that work as cashiers 
and sell the product, will be counted. The mechanics that work on the 
cars, however, will not be. Employees that perform solely 
administrative functions and that do not handle meat or poultry 
products will also not be counted.
    When an establishment conducts multiple operations, it is sometimes 
difficult to distinguish employees associated with the meat or poultry 
operations from those that are not. For example, an individual employed 
as a cashier at an establishment's deli operations may also slice and 
package meat or poultry products produced by the establishment. The 
standard adopted in this final rule clearly distinguishes employees 
whose duties are associated with the meat or poultry products produced 
by an establishment from those that are not. It also ensures that the 
cooperative interstate shipment program will remain limited to certain 
small and very small establishments, as intended.
    b. Proposed standard: Part-time and temporary employees are to be 
counted the same as full-time employees.
    Comment: Several comments, most submitted by consumer advocacy 
organizations and one submitted by a food and commercial workers union, 
agreed with the proposed standard to count part-time and temporary 
workers as full-time workers for purposes of qualifying for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. The comments noted that most 
very small establishments have few full-time employees, and many do not 
operate every day. The comments maintained that counting part-time and 
temporary employees the same as full time employees is an effective 
means to assure the cooperative interstate shipment program serves the 
entities it was intended to serve. According to the comment, failing to 
count part-time and temporary employees in the average number of 
employees would permit substantially larger entities to participate in 
a program that was designed to serve very small local establishments.
    Some of these comments noted that during negotiations with the 
States, consumer advocacy groups reluctantly agreed to the States' 
request for a program with a 25 employee limit. According to the 
comment, none of the groups involved in the negotiations ever agreed to 
anything larger than 25 employees. The comments said that the primary 
reason that many consumer advocacy organizations had opposed the House 
interstate shipment bill was because the bill contained a 50 employee 
limit, which, according to the comment, would have expanded the number 
of establishments in the new cooperative program far beyond what was 
intended. One comment stated that, although the program's 25 employee 
limit is reasonable, the commenter would have preferred a limit of 10 
employees, which is similar to the current FSIS definition for very 
small establishments.
    Several other comments, most submitted by State Departments of 
Agriculture and other State agencies, disagreed with the proposed 
standard to count part-time and temporary workers as full time 
employees. The comments stated that such a standard seems excessive and 
does not provide an accurate depiction of an establishment's actual 
number of employees.
    The comments noted that many small establishments in small towns 
hire part-time employees who work as little as a few hours a week. 
According to the comments, to count such employees as full-time would 
contradict and undercut the rural development intentions of the 
enabling legislation. One comment stated that in some rural areas, 
especially those with small and very small establishments, meat 
processing has a seasonal component that provides part-time seasonal 
work for rural residents. The comments noted that during each part of 
the day, an establishment may have only 25 employees on site, even if 
the total number of part-time and fulltime employees employed overall 
during the day exceeds 25.
    The comments suggested that part-time and temporary workers be 
counted on the basis of ``full-time equivalents'' or ``FTEs,'' i.e., 
based on the ratio of their work-hours to those of a full-time year-
round employee. The comments said that part-time and temporary 
employees should be grouped together and counted based on the number of 
hours they work each week during the year, with 40 hours per week being 
considered an FTE. Several comments suggested formulas for calculating 
the number of employees based on FTEs.
    Response: After considering the comments, FSIS has decided to adopt 
the proposed standard to count temporary and part time employees the 
same as full-time employees. For purposes of its regulatory programs, 
FSIS defines small and very small establishments based on SBA criteria. 
A standard that counts part-time and temporary workers the same as 
full-time workers reflects the SBA methods for calculating the average 
number of employees for a small business concern and is thus consistent 
with FSIS's overall approach for defining small and very small 
establishments.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ See 13 CFR 121.105 and 121.106 for SBA methods to calculate 
the number of employees of a business concern where the size 
standard in number of employees.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As noted by the comments, several very small establishments have 
few full-time employees, and many do not operate every day. A standard 
that is based on the SBA criteria that counts part-time and temporary 
employees the same as full time employees allows these establishments 
to hire seasonal workers while ensuring that only very small and 
certain small establishments are eligible to participate in the 
program.
    Comment: Several comments stated that the standards for determining 
the average number of employees need to allow for more flexibility in 
counting temporary seasonal workers. The comments noted that small and 
very small establishments often have fluctuation in their employees 
during certain parts of the year, such as during

[[Page 24720]]

holiday and hunting seasons, and that the term ``seasonal'' will have 
different meanings in different areas of the country. Some comments 
noted some establishments hire extra employees to help with seasonal 
activities that are not related to the processing of amenable species, 
such as processing game meat or for busy times in their retail shops 
around holidays.
    The comments suggested that seasonal employees be counted based on 
FTE. As an example, the comments explained that a seasonal employee who 
works full-time for 3 months would be a 25% FTE and should be counted 
as one quarter of an employee.
    One comment asserted that seasonal employees should not be counted 
at all when calculating the average number of employees. The comment 
suggested that the final rule define a seasonal employee as an employee 
that works for the establishment ninety or fewer days in a calendar 
year.
    Response: When Congress amended the FMIA and PPIA to establish the 
cooperative interstate shipment program, it intended for FSIS to 
interpret the term average ``[hellip]to provide some flexibility to 
these selected plants that require seasonal employees for certain parts 
of the year, as long as the increase in employees are [sic] manageable 
by the establishment and the increase in employees does not undermine 
food safety standards'' (S. Rep. No. 220, 110th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 
211-214 (2007)).
    As discussed below, under the proposed rule, selected 
establishments may temporarily employ more than 25 employees during 
busy seasons, as long as the average number of employees continues to 
be 25 and the number of employees does not exceed 35. Thus, a standard 
that counts temporary seasonal employees the same as full-time 
employees will allow selected establishments to hire seasonal employees 
while ensuring that the number of employees remains manageable by the 
establishment, as Congress intended.
    FSIS disagrees with the comment that stated that seasonal employees 
should not be counted at all. Such an approach would be inconsistent 
with the language and intent of the statute.
    c. Proposed standard: The total number of employees cannot exceed 
35 at any given time, regardless of the average number of employees.
    Comment: Some comments stated that the proposed standard that 
provides that the total number of employees can never exceed 35 
individuals at any given time, regardless of the average number of 
employees, is a reasonable upper limit for selected establishments to 
remain eligible to participate in the program. One comment stated that 
such a limit is reasonable if FSIS does not count part-time and 
temporary employees the same as full time.
    Other comments asserted that FSIS should not limit the number of 
employees working at a selected establishment at any given time if the 
establishment maintains an average of 25 employees or fewer. The 
comments stated that while section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill requires 
that the average number of employees not exceed 25, the law does not 
prohibit a selected establishment from ever, over the course of a year, 
having more than 35 employees.
    The comments stated that in many small establishments there may be 
``spikes'' in employee numbers during busy periods, but the overall 
average number of employees is under 25. The comments asserted that, as 
written, the proposed rule excludes such establishments from 
participating in the interstate shipment program. According to the 
comments, section 11015 was not intended to exclude these 
establishments. The comments suggested that FSIS revise the proposed 
rule to ensure that these establishments remain eligible for the 
program.
    One comment disagreed with the proposed 35 employees limit because, 
according to the comment, allowing selected establishment to have 35 
employees during seasonal shifts represents, at minimum, a 40% increase 
in establishment personnel. The comment argued that the higher number 
of employees represents a huge increase in production that could 
overwhelm a very small establishment's production systems, which could 
result in contaminated food entering commerce. The comment noted that 
if an establishment routinely employs 5 people and then increases this 
number to 10 or 20 during a certain timeframe, it will have a 100% or 
400% increase in employees. The comment maintained that this level of 
increase is not manageable and is not what Congress intended.
    The comment suggested that instead of limiting the total number of 
employees to 35 at any given time, FSIS should cap at 20% the increase 
in the number of employees that an establishment may use during a 
seasonal shift. The comment acknowledged that the commenter does not 
have data to support this number, but stated that it stands to reason 
that a sudden increase in production could significantly affect the 
dynamics within an establishment and overwhelm the system. According to 
the comment, small and very small establishments have HACCP plans for a 
production process at a certain level that would not necessarily 
support a significantly higher level of production. The comment pointed 
out that FSIS did not provide any data to support the proposed 35 
employee cap.
    One comment stated that FSIS should not allow more than 25 
employees in selected establishments at any given time. The comment 
noted that section 11015 requires that establishments that consistently 
employ more than 25 employees but fewer than 35 employees transition to 
Federal establishments within three years of the enactment date. The 
comment stated that this provision indicates that Congress recognized 
that establishments that ship product in interstate commerce and that 
have more than 25 employees should be under Federal inspection.
    Response: While the 2008 amendments to the Acts do not specifically 
prohibit selected establishments from ever having more than 35 
employees, the Senate report described above indicates that Congress 
intended that there be some limits on the number of employees working 
at a selected establishment at any given time.
    As explained in the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS proposed 
that the number of employees working in a selected establishment never 
exceed 35 at any given time because the law allows FSIS to select for 
the cooperative interstate shipment program establishments that 
employed more than 25 but fewer than 35 employees as of June 18, 2008, 
the date the law was enacted (21 U.S.C. 683(b)(3)(B) and 472(b)(3)(B)). 
To remain in the program, these establishments must employ fewer than 
25 employees on average 3 years after the effective date of this final 
rule. Thus, while Congress did not intend to ``* * * routinely allow 
selected establishments to employ above 25 or more employees,'' the 
fact that the law provides for some selected establishments to 
initially employ up to 35 individuals demonstrates that a temporary 
increase in the number of employees of up to 35 individuals, as long as 
the average number of employees remains 25 or fewer, is consistent with 
the language and intent of the Acts.
    As noted above, when Congress established the cooperative 
interstate shipment program, it intended to provide some flexibility to 
establishments that require seasonal employees to meet consumer demands 
for certain parts of the year. The 20%

[[Page 24721]]

cap on the increase in the number of employees suggested by one of the 
comments would greatly restrict the number of temporary workers that a 
selected establishment would be allowed to hire during busy seasons. 
For example, an establishment that regularly employs five employees on 
average would be permitted to hire only one temporary employee during 
its busy seasons. Many small and very small establishments operate on 
an intermittent or seasonal basis and are accustomed to adjusting their 
operations to temporarily increase production without undermining food 
safety standards. FSIS has concluded that restricting the increase in 
employees to 20% is unlikely to provide the flexibility that many very 
small selected establishments will need to meet seasonal demands for 
their products.
    d. Proposed standards: Volunteers who receive no compensation are 
not considered employees.
    Comment: One comment disagreed with the proposed standard that 
provides that volunteers are not considered employees. The comment 
stated as a food safety measure, uncompensated volunteers who are 
engaged in meat or poultry product processing should be considered 
employees for the purpose of the cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Response: FSIS agrees with this comment and has revised the 
standards for counting employees to include as employees, volunteers 
that perform duties that involve handling the meat or poultry products 
produced by the establishment.

D. State Participation: ``The Same as'' Standard for Inspection 
Services Provided to Selected Establishments

    The proposed regulations provide that States interested in 
establishing an agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment program 
are required to submit a request for such an agreement to FSIS through 
the FSIS district office that covers the State. The proposed rule also 
provided that, in their requests, States are required to include 
documentation to demonstrate that they are able to provide the 
necessary inspection services to selected establishments in the State 
and conduct any related activities that would be required under a 
cooperative interstate shipment program. The preamble to the proposed 
rule explained that to meet this requirement, the statute requires that 
States demonstrate that the inspection service that they provide to 
selected establishments in the State will be ``the same as,'' rather 
than ``at least equal to'' those provided under the Federal inspection 
program. FSIS received a significant number of comments on the proposed 
``same as'' standard.
1. Support for ``the same as'' Standard
    Comments submitted by consumer advocacy organizations, meat 
processor trade associations whose members mainly operate under the 
Federal inspection system, a union representing food and commercial 
workers, two pork producer trade associations, and some private 
citizens expressed support for the proposed ``same as'' standard.
    Comment: The comments that supported the proposed ``same as'' 
standard agreed that the language and intent of the enabling statute 
require that the cooperative interstate shipment program operate under 
standards that are the ``same as'' the Federal inspection system and 
not the ``at least equal to'' standard that applies to State MPI 
programs. The comments believed that all meat and poultry products 
shipped in interstate commerce should be required to comply with 
uniform Federal food safety standards rather then multiple State 
standards. The comments stated that it is especially important for 
State-inspected establishments that participate in the new program to 
be in compliance with all Federal standards because the meat and 
poultry products produced by these establishments will bear a Federal 
mark of inspection.
    One comment stated that requiring that selected establishments that 
voluntarily request the opportunity to participate in a cooperative 
interstate shipment program operate in a manner that is the ``same as'' 
federally-inspected establishments is not only consistent with the 
provisions and intent of the law, but also ensures that the food safety 
standards established in the FMIA, PPIA, and their implementing 
regulations are applied uniformly to all meat and poultry products that 
are distributed in interstate commerce. The comment encouraged FSIS to 
retain the proposed ``same as'' standard to first and foremost ensure 
the safety of meat and poultry products distributed in interstate 
commerce, but also to ensure equity in the marketplace. The comment 
added that this fundamental proposition, that the playing field be 
level for all companies engaging in interstate commerce, was a critical 
element in securing passage of the statutory provisions that authorized 
the cooperative interstate shipment program. The comment asserted that 
the program must not provide an unfair advantage to small companies 
that will not, or cannot, make the commitments necessary to comply with 
Federal food safety requirements.
    Two comments stated that requiring that State-inspected products 
produced under the cooperative interstate shipment program comply with 
all Federal requirements is essential for maintaining domestic and 
international markets for U.S. meat and poultry products. Other 
comments said that consumers expect that products carrying the Federal 
mark of inspection comply with Federal standards for meat and poultry 
inspection. The comments stated that establishments that are not held 
to all aspects of the Federal requirements should not be entitled to 
apply the Federal mark of inspection on their products.
    One comment that supported the ``same as'' standard noted that 
although establishments operating under a State MPI inspection program 
receive inspection services that are ``at least equal to'' the Federal 
inspection program, the methodology employed by FSIS is a critical part 
of the effectiveness of the Federal food safety system. The comment 
asserted that, as such, it is essential for States that participate in 
the cooperative interstate shipment program to follow Federal 
inspection methodology when providing inspection services to selected 
establishments.
    Response: FSIS agrees that the ``same as'' standard is consistent 
with the language and intent of the statutes. The issues raised by the 
comments demonstrate why it is important for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program to operate under standards that are ``the same as'' 
those imposed under the Federal meat and poultry products inspection 
programs.
2. Opposed to ``same as'' standard
    Several comments submitted by State Departments of Agriculture and 
other State agencies, as well as organizations representing these 
entities, objected to the proposed ``same as'' standard. Some farm and 
rural community advocacy organizations, cattle producer organizations, 
a trade association representing small meat processors, and an animal 
welfare advocacy organization also opposed the proposed standard.
    Comment: Several comments that objected to the proposed ``same as'' 
standard claimed that such a standard is not authorized by law. These 
comments asserted that the Acts, as amended by the 2008 Farm Bill, do 
not contain any language that would require that the inspection 
services that States provide to selected establishments be ``the same

[[Page 24722]]

as'' or ``identical to'' the inspection services provided under the 
Federal program. The comments maintained that such an interpretation is 
an extrapolation of the language that does not exist in the statute.
    The comments noted that under the 2008 Farm Bill amendments, the 
term ``eligible establishment'' refers to an establishment that is ``in 
compliance with'' the Acts. The comments also noted that these 
amendments authorize the SEC to ``ensure that selected establishments 
are operating in a manner that is consistent with * * *'' the Acts (21 
U.S.C. 472(d)(3)(A), 683(d)(3)(A)). The comments argued that these 
provisions indicate that if Congress had intended to require that the 
State program be ``the same as'' or ``identical to'' to the Federal 
program, it would have specifically said so in the statute.
    The comments also noted that the 2008 Farm Bill did not amend the 
provisions in the FMIA and PPIA that provide for cooperative State MPI 
programs that are ``at least equal'' to the Federal program. According 
to the comments, the fact that Congress did not amend these provisions 
demonstrates that State programs that are ``at least equal to'' the 
Federal program are in compliance with the Acts.
    Response: The language in the FMIA and PPIA, as amended by the 2008 
Farm Bill, is clear: Congress provided that the cooperative interstate 
shipment program would operate under standards that are ``the same as'' 
those imposed under the Federal program.
    The 2008 amendments to the FMIA and PPIA provide that to be 
eligible for the cooperative interstate shipment, State-inspected 
establishments must be in compliance with both the State's MPI program 
and ``* * * the requirements of this chapter, including the rules and 
regulations issued under this chapter'' (21 U.S.C. 472(a)(3) and 
683(a)(3)). As used in the statutes, the term ``this chapter'' refers 
to the FMIA at 21 U.S.C Chapter 12, and the PPIA at 21 U.S.C. Chapter 
10. The 2008 amendments also require that the State personnel 
designated to provide inspection services under the program undergo ``* 
* * all necessary training and certification to assist * * * in the 
administration and enforcement of this chapter, including the rules and 
regulations issued under this chapter'' (21 U.S.C. 472(a)(2) and 
683(a)(2)). The 2008 amendments allow a meat or poultry product 
inspected by designated State personnel to bear a Federal mark of 
inspection and be shipped in interstate commerce if the product ``* * * 
qualifies for the mark * * * under the requirements of this chapter'' 
(21 U.S.C. 472(b)(1)(A) and 683(b)(1)(A)).
    The Senate Conference Committee report on the bill that established 
the cooperative interstate shipment program provides that ``* * * 
establishments selected for the [cooperative interstate shipment] 
program * * * must fully follow [the FMIA or PPIA], its regulations, 
notices, directives and policies just as would be required of a Federal 
establishment'' (S. Rep. No. 220, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007), pp. 
211-214). The report also provides that ``* * * [t]he inspection 
personnel of the State that will inspect the selected establishment 
must have undergone all the necessary training to carry out the 
requirement of [the Acts], [their] regulations, notices directives and 
policies, just as required of a Federal inspector.''
    Thus, both the statute and the Committee report make clear that 
Congress intended for the cooperative interstate shipment program to 
operate under standards that are ``the same as'' those imposed under 
the Federal inspection program.
    FSIS agrees with the comments that stated that the 2008 Farm Bill 
did not amend the provisions in the FMIA and PPIA that provide for 
cooperative State MPI programs that are ``at least equal'' to the 
Federal program. However, FSIS disagrees that this means that State 
programs that are ``at least equal to'' the Federal program are in 
compliance with all requirements of the Acts for purposes of the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. Under the FMIA and PPIA, 
establishments operating under an ``at least equal to'' State MPI 
program are permitted to produce meat or poultry products solely for 
distribution within the State where the establishment is located (21 
U.S.C. 454(a)(1) and 661(a)(1)). Thus, State programs that are ``at 
least equal to'' the Federal program are in compliance with the Acts 
only if the establishments operating under these programs prepare and 
ship products solely for use within the State where they are located.
    Comment: One comment asked whether the proposed rule requires that 
a State's entire MPI program must be ``identical to'' the Federal 
program for the State to qualify for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    Response: No, a State's entire MPI program does not need to be 
identical to the Federal program for the State to qualify for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. To qualify for the program, a 
State must demonstrate that the inspection services that it will 
provide to selected establishments in the State will be ``the same as'' 
those provided under the Federal inspection program. States that 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program may continue 
to operate an ``at least equal to'' State MPI program for 
establishments that produce meat and poultry products solely for 
distribution within the State.
    Comment: Several comments stated that the interstate shipment 
program's legislative history demonstrates that Congress intended for 
the program to operate under the ``at least equal'' standard required 
for the existing cooperative State MPI programs. According to the 
comments, the conference reports for the House and Senate versions of 
interstate shipment legislation indicate that Congress adopted the 
Senate version of the bill because the House version would have 
required that States implement meat and poultry inspection programs 
``identical to'' the Federal inspection system. The comments maintained 
that the legislative intent was to provide current State facilities 
with a viable route to ship State product interstate. The comments said 
that the requirement for State plants to be ``identical to'' or ``same 
as'' a federal plant radically deviates from this.
    Response: The comments are correct in that Congress did adopt the 
Senate version of the legislation that established the cooperative 
interstate shipment program. However, FSIS disagrees that the Senate 
version was adopted to permit State-inspected establishments operating 
under an ``at least equal to'' standard to ship meat and poultry 
products in interstate commerce.
    Section 11103 of the House version of the 2008 Farm Bill would have 
amended the FMIA and PPIA to replace the existing ``at least equal to'' 
cooperative State MPI program with a new program that would have 
authorized FSIS to approve, and enter into cooperative agreement with, 
only those State MPI programs that adopt standards identical to those 
imposed under the Federal program (H. Rep. 110-256, 110th Cong., 1st 
Session, pp. 184-191). Under the House version, all State-inspected 
establishments would have been required to comply with Federal 
standards, the State mark of inspection would have been deemed an 
official mark, and all State-inspected establishments would have been 
allowed to ship meat or poultry products in interstate commerce.
    The Senate bill, which was the version adopted in the 2008 Farm 
Bill, supplements, but does not replace, the

[[Page 24723]]

existing State MPI programs. The Senate version provides an option 
under which State-inspected establishments that have, on average, 25 or 
fewer employees, will be permitted to ship their meat or poultry 
products in interstate commerce. Under the Senate version, State-
inspected establishments are required to comply with all Federal 
standards to be eligible to participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program, and designated State personnel must be trained to 
enforce Federal food safety standards. Under the Senate version, State-
inspected establishments that choose not to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program may continue to operate under 
the ``at least equal to'' State MPI program and ship their products 
within the States where they are located.
    Comment: Some comments claimed that in the past, FSIS itself 
concluded that it was unrealistic for States to maintain MPI programs 
that are ``the same as'' or ``identical to'' FSIS's program. The 
comments noted that in 2003, the Agency provided an option for the 
States to claim that their meat and poultry inspection programs were 
``same as'' or ``identical to'' FSIS inspection as part of the Agency's 
annual review in which it verifies that State MPI programs are ``equal 
to'' the Federal program. The comments said that in 2006, FSIS reached 
the conclusion that it was logistically impossible for State programs 
to maintain a true ``same as'' or ``identical to'' status, so the 
Agency removed this option from the State Self Assessment Manual forms. 
The comments asserted that if only a few years ago FSIS acknowledged 
that it is impossible for State MPI programs to be the ``same as'' 
Federal programs, proposing such a standard now will effectively 
prevent States from qualifying for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Response: FSIS has stated that ``at least equal to'' does not 
require that States operate their cooperative MPI programs in a manner 
that is ``the same as'' or ``identical to'' the FSIS program or does 
not prohibit States from establishing safeguards that the States 
believe to be more effective than those employed by FSIS. The law does 
not require that the cooperative State MPI programs operate under 
standards ``identical to'' the Federal program.
    As noted above, the cooperative interstate shipment program will 
supplement the existing State MPI programs, not replace them. Thus, 
while States that participate in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program will need to provide the same inspection services to selected 
establishments that FSIS provides to federally-inspected 
establishments, States may also continue to operate their cooperative 
State MPI programs in a manner that is ``at least equal to'' the 
Federal program.
    Comment: Several comments noted that a foreign country must 
demonstrate that its inspection system is ``equivalent'' to the U.S. 
inspection system before FSIS will permit establishments located in the 
foreign country to import meat and poultry products into the United 
States. These comments asserted that requiring that States operate 
their cooperative interstate shipment programs under standards that are 
the ``same as'' those required under the Federal program subjects the 
States to a stricter and less flexible standard than the standard 
applied to foreign countries. One comment maintained that while the 
commenter does not support the equivalent standard for foreign 
facilities, there is no justification for discriminating against 
domestic establishments under the jurisdiction of State inspection 
programs by requiring that they meet more rigid standards than those 
imposed on foreign establishments.
    Response: The equivalence standard applied to imported meat and 
poultry products and the ``same as'' standard applied to meat and 
poultry products produced under the cooperative interstate shipment 
program reflect the relevant provision in the FMIA and PPIA. The FMIA 
and PPIA require that FSIS treat as equivalent to a U.S. requirement 
alternative measures proposed by an exporting country if the country 
provides scientific evidence or other information, in accordance with 
risk assessment methodologies agreed to by FSIS and the exporting 
country, to demonstrate that the alternative measure achieves the level 
of protection that is appropriate for the United States (21 U.S.C. 
620(e)(1)(B), 466(d)(2)(A)). These provisions reflect the U.S. 
Government's obligation under the World Trade Organization (WTO) 
Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures 
(the SPS Agreement) to accept the sanitary measures of an exporting 
Member country as equivalent if the exporting member demonstrates that 
its sanitary measures attain the same level of protection (Article 4.1, 
``Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures). 
FSIS evaluates foreign food regulatory systems for equivalence through 
document reviews, on-site audits, and port-of-entry reinspection of 
products at the time of importation (9 CFR part 327 and 381 subpart T).
    Comment: Several comments asserted that it is unnecessary to 
require that the inspection services that States provide to selected 
establishments be the ``same as'' inspection services provided under 
the Federal program because most States have incorporated the Federal 
requirements into their State MPI programs. The comments stated that, 
according to FSIS's 2008 report on its review of the State MPI 
programs, these State programs have demonstrated that they can 
implement the Federal laws and regulations in a manner that is ``at 
least equal to,'' and thus, ``in compliance with'' the Federal 
standards without operating under a program that is ``the same as'' the 
Federal inspection program because of the smaller staff size and other 
administrative aspects of the State programs.
    Response: As noted throughout this document, the 2008 amendments to 
the Acts require that the inspection services that States provide to 
selected establishments be ``the same as'' those provided under the 
Federal inspection program. The Senate report also makes clear that 
State inspection personnel are ``* * * to carry out the Federal 
requirements of the [the Acts], [their] regulations, notices directives 
and policies, just as required of a Federal inspector'' (S. Rep. No. 
110-220, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007), pp 211-214). Thus, FSIS 
disagrees that State programs that have implemented the Federal laws 
and regulations in a manner that is ``at least equal to'' the Federal 
inspection program are ``in compliance with'' the Federal standard for 
purposes of the cooperative interstate shipment program. The law 
clearly requires that the inspection services that designated State 
personnel provide to selected establishments in States participating in 
the cooperative interstate shipment program be ``the same as'' those 
provided under the Federal program.
    Comment: Several comments claimed that under the ``at least equal 
to'' standard, some States have implemented requirements for food 
safety and consumer protection that are stricter than those provided 
for under the Federal Acts. According to these comments, many States 
have processes for the review and evaluation of product labels that do 
more than FSIS's generic label process to ensure that the labels of 
meat and poultry products properly inform consumers about the product, 
its weight and its ingredients. The comments also noted that while FSIS 
currently does not have the authority to levy civil penalties for 
violations of the

[[Page 24724]]

Federal Acts, many States have the authority to impose civil penalties 
against violators of State meat and poultry inspection laws. Some 
comments stated that while FSIS allows the slaughter and sale of up to 
20,000 farm raised chickens annually to restaurants and retail markets 
without benefit of inspection, many State programs do not permit this 
activity. The comment claimed that requiring States to operate their 
MPI programs in a manner that is ``identical to'' the Federal program 
could force the States to lower their standards.
    One comment stated that some states impose humane handling and 
slaughter requirements that go above and beyond those required by 
Federal law. Another comment said that some States have stricter cold 
storage requirements than FSIS.
    Response: As discussed above, the cooperative interstate shipment 
program established in this final rule supplements rather than replaces 
the existing State MPI programs. States that participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program may continue to operate their 
``at least equal to'' State MPI programs for meat and poultry products 
produced and sold solely within the State. Thus, this final rule does 
not affect requirements for labeling, civil fines, poultry inspection, 
humane handling, or cold storage that States have adopted as part of 
their cooperative State MPI programs.
    Comment: In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that 
to qualify for a cooperative interstate shipment program, States will 
need to demonstrate that they have the authority under State law to 
provide the necessary inspection services to selected establishments in 
the State (74 FR 47652). Some comments noted that if the final 
regulations require that inspection services provided to selected 
establishments be the ``the same as'' those provided under the Federal 
inspection system, many States will not be able to immediately change 
their laws to make them identical to the Federal inspection laws.
    One comment noted that the ability of States interested in the new 
program to change their rules and adopt FSIS regulations will depend on 
the process the State program must follow in order to make those 
changes. Other comments noted that each State has its own legislative 
process and some State legislatures do not meet every year. One comment 
noted that, although the State programs are ``equal to'' the Federal 
inspection system, the terminology and precise phrasing in the laws and 
regulations differ, and that State administrative systems vary.
    Response: As discussed above, the cooperative interstate shipment 
program supplements the existing State MPI programs. Therefore, States 
are not required to amend all State inspection laws to make them 
identical to the Federal requirements. States interested in 
participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program will need 
to demonstrate that they have the necessary legal authority to enforce 
Federal food safety standards in selected establishments in the State.
    As noted by the comments, State laws and regulations differ, and 
each State has its own legislative process. Some States may already 
have the necessary legal authority to participate in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program, while others may need to make legislative 
changes to provide for any additional authority that they may need.
    Comment: Some comments asserted that the main focus of any program 
that provides for the interstate shipment of State-inspected products 
should be on the safety of the products produced in the selected 
establishments, not on administrative procedures for the inspection 
program. According to the comments, if States are required to operate 
their cooperative interstate shipment programs in a manner that is the 
``same as'' the Federal program, the focus of these programs will be on 
the administrative procedures of the State instead of food safety. The 
comments stated that regulatory requirements can be met through 
different means and that it is not practical or effective for a State 
program to operate under the exact same procedures prescribed in the 
Federal system.
    The comments suggested that an effective alternative would be to 
allow States to work within the existing ``equal to'' framework to 
develop food safety activities focused on problems specific to their 
establishments. The comments stated that the ``at least equal to'' 
standard is well accepted and has been effective in ensuring that State 
MPI inspection programs are comparable to the Federal program.
    Response: As explained above, the law does not provide for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program to operate within the existing 
``at least equal to'' framework. Under the 2008 amendments to the Acts, 
meat or poultry produced in selected establishments are permitted to 
bear a Federal mark of inspection and be shipped in interstate commerce 
only if designated State personnel find that such product qualify for a 
Federal mark (21 U.S.C. 683(b)(1)(a) and 472(b)(1)(a)). While products 
that are inspected and passed under a State's ``at least equal'' MPI 
program qualify for a State mark, these products are not eligible for a 
Federal mark.
    Comment: Some comments complained that FSIS's proposed regulations 
would require that States maintain two separate inspection systems, one 
that is ``identical to'' the Federal program and one that is ``equal 
to'' the Federal program. The comments said that adding an entirely new 
State inspection system to comply with the ``same as'' standard will 
add an extra layer of cost for the States. According to the comments, 
many States would need to hire additional laboratory staff to perform 
different methodology and complete documentation the same as FSIS. The 
comments also said that States would need funds to train inspectors and 
purchase Federal computers, and that overall State administrative costs 
would increase because office staff, accountants, supervisors, and 
managers would need to manage two systems. One comment urged FSIS to 
fully consider the impact that the ``same as'' standard will have on 
the administrative aspects of the State inspection programs.
    Response: In the Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis (PRIA) to 
the proposed interstate shipment rule, FSIS acknowledged that States 
that choose to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program may need to make certain modifications to their inspection 
program to provide inspection services to selected establishments in 
the State (74 FR 47657). The Agency also acknowledged that the 
inspection costs under the new program may differ from the costs of the 
existing State MPI program. As required by law, if Congress provides 
the necessary funding for the cooperative interstate shipment program, 
FSIS will reimburse States for costs related to the inspection of 
selected establishments in the State in an amount not less than 60 
percent of eligible State cost. FSIS has updated its analysis of the 
State costs in the Final Regulatory Impact Analysis (FRIA) for this 
final rule.
    As noted by the comments, the cooperative interstate shipment 
program established in the proposed rule may require that States 
maintain two separate inspection programs, one that is ``the same as'' 
the Federal program and one that is ``equal to'' the Federal program. 
States that enter into cooperative agreements under the Talmadge-Aiken 
program to provide Federal inspection services to Federal 
establishments on behalf of FSIS are

[[Page 24725]]

also required to maintain two separate inspection systems--one under 
the cooperative State ``at least equal to'' MPI program and the other 
under the cooperative Talmadge-Aiken program. Thus, FSIS does not 
believe that the cost to administer two separate cooperative inspection 
programs will prevent States that are interested in participating in 
the cooperative interstate shipment program from doing so.
3. ``Same as'' Computer Systems and Forms
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that to 
qualify for a cooperative interstate shipment program, the Agency 
expects States to demonstrate that they can provide the necessary 
equipment for State personnel to provide the same inspection services 
to selected establishment that FSIS provides to official 
establishments, including computers and supplies for collecting 
regulatory product samples (74 FR 47652).
    Comment: A number of comments said that this statement could be 
interpreted to mean that State programs must obtain and use the same 
computers and computer programs that are used by FSIS personnel. The 
comments requested that FSIS clarify its expectations with regard to 
the type of computers and information systems the States will need to 
have in place to qualify for a cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Some of these comments noted that many States currently use State-
issued laptops computers and have developed systems that have been 
determined ``equal to'' FSIS to track and report inspection activities 
and other required data. One comment noted that some States have 
developed their own data-driven systems that mimic the Federal System, 
but that also allow State program personnel access to State licensing 
information and to view and conduct other inspection activities in 
facilities that are not related to meat and poultry. According to the 
comment, States with their own information systems are able to tailor 
FSIS inspection activities, which are geared towards use in larger 
establishments, to be effective in very small establishments.
    Response: To qualify for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, States will need to have computer programs and information 
systems that are ``the same as'' those used by FSIS to administer the 
Federal inspection program. Assuming that Congress provides the 
necessary funding, FSIS will allow States that do not have the 
necessary information systems to purchase from the Agency federally-
procured computers and the necessary computer programs. FSIS will 
reimburse the States for 60% of their eligible costs to obtain the 
necessary computers and software. FSIS does not intend to reimburse 
more than 60% of the States' costs unless Congress directs it, and 
provides the money for it to do so.
    Comment: Some comments stated that if FSIS expects States to have 
information systems that are identical to those used under the Federal 
system, some States will need to maintain two computer systems to 
participate in the program because the Federal computer system does not 
allow any State program loads, and the Federal systems cannot be 
operated on a computer other than a federally-sourced computer. One 
comment noted that federally-procured computers generally cost more 
than State-procured ones, and the Federal computers would only be used 
on a limited basis by State personnel that work in selected 
establishments.
    Response: As noted above, to provide the necessary inspection 
services under the cooperative interstate shipment program, States that 
participate in the program will need to use computer programs that are 
``the same as'' those used by FSIS to administer the Federal inspection 
program. Thus, if the Federal computer programs cannot be operated on 
State-sourced computers, the State may need to purchase new computers 
from FSIS. As a result, some States will need to maintain two computer 
systems to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Comment: One comment asked if states participating in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program will have access to all of the 
Federal data programs, like eADRS, Assurance Net and FSIS intranet. 
Another comment stated that FSIS did not explain how requiring that 
States have identical computer systems in order to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program will further food safety and 
compliance with the Acts.
    Response: States that participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program will have access to the computer programs that are 
necessary to provide inspection services that are ``the same as'' those 
provided under the Federal program. The computer systems used by States 
to administer the cooperative interstate shipment program need to be 
``the same as'' those used under the Federal program to ensure that 
selected establishments are meeting all food safety standards that are 
``the same as'' rather than ``at least equal to'' standards imposed 
under the Federal program.
    Comment: Some comments asked whether the forms used by States 
operating under a cooperative interstate shipment need to be identical 
to the Federal forms that FSIS uses under its inspection program. 
According to one comment, State inspection programs frequently do not 
have access to Federal forms and, therefore, most have developed their 
own forms. The comment stated that, if States are required to maintain 
forms that are identical to the Federal forms, many States will need to 
manage two different sets of documentation to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Response: To provide the necessary inspection services to selected 
establishments participating in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, States will need to use forms that are the same as those used 
under the Federal inspection program. FSIS's OOEET will assist the 
States to obtain the necessary forms.
4. ``Same as'' Training for Designated State Personnel
    The preamble to the proposed rule stated that to qualify for a 
cooperative interstate shipment program, States will need to 
demonstrate that designated State personnel have been properly trained 
in Federal inspection methodology (74 FR 7652). The preamble also 
explained that FSIS offers training courses in Federal inspection 
methodology to State inspection personnel and that States that are 
interested in participating in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program will be responsible for making arrangements for their 
inspection personnel to attend these courses.
    Comment: Several comments stated that FSIS-sponsored training is 
costly, lengthy, and almost always requires travel out of State for 
extended periods of time. The comments suggested that, instead of 
requiring designated State personnel to attend FSIS training, the 
Agency should allow States to provide training that is ``equal to'' 
FSIS's training program. The comments explained that such training 
would include equivalent content as FSIS training but could be 
administered by the individual States, other State programs, FSIS or 
other qualified entities.
    Response: The law does not provide for training that is ``equal 
to'' FSIS's training program or that includes equivalent content. The 
2008 amendments to the Acts require that designated State personnel 
under go ``* * * all necessary inspection training

[[Page 24726]]

and certification to assist the [FSIS Administrator] in the 
administration and enforcement of [the Acts], including rules and 
regulations issued under [the Acts]'' (21 U.S.C. 683(a)(2)and 
472(a)(2)). As stated in the Senate Committee report, this means that 
the designated State personnel ``* * * must have undergone all the 
necessary training to carry out the requirements of [the Acts], [their] 
regulations, notices, directives and policies, just as required of a 
Federal inspector'' (S. Rep. No. 220, 110th Cong., 1st Sess. (2007), 
pp. 211-214) Thus, the law clearly requires that the training in 
Federal inspection methodology provided to designated State personnel 
be ``the same as'' the training provided to FSIS inspection personnel.
    As noted in the preamble to the proposed cooperative interstate 
shipment rule, FSIS offers training courses in Federal inspection 
methodology to State inspection personnel. FSIS's OOEET will coordinate 
with States participating in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program to provide the necessary training for designated State 
personnel.
    Comment: Some comments stated that many States conduct their own 
training courses, which are subject to oversight by FSIS. The 
commenters noted that these State courses often present the identical 
material that FSIS presents in its training courses. The comments 
suggested that FSIS consider these State courses as acceptable training 
for designated State personnel.
    Response: Although some States may be providing training that 
includes the same content as the training provided by FSIS, designated 
State personnel will need to complete FSIS-sponsored training for the 
State to qualify for the cooperative interstate shipment program. FSIS-
sponsored training courses will ensure that designated State personnel 
receive the necessary training to carryout the requirements of the 
Federal Acts, ``just as required of a Federal inspector,'' as intended 
by Congress.
    Comment: One comment asked whether State personnel will need to 
complete their training before the State begins its cooperative 
interstate shipment program. Some comments stated that State programs 
cannot afford the travel costs associated with sending already trained 
state inspectors to additional training. One comment suggested that 
FSIS make any required training for State inspectors available through 
on-line courses at no charge to the States. Two comments asked whether 
FSIS would be covering training and training-related expenses.
    Response: As noted above, the preamble to the proposed rule 
explained that to qualify for the program, States would need to 
demonstrate, among other things, that designated State personnel have 
been properly trained in Federal inspection methodology. This means 
that when a State submits a request to FSIS for a cooperative 
interstate shipment program, the State must demonstrate either that its 
designated State personnel have completed the necessary training in 
Federal inspection methodology or that such personnel will have 
completed such training before they begin to provide inspection 
services to selected establishments in the State.
    As previously noted, FSIS currently offers courses in Federal 
inspection methodology to State inspection personnel. States that are 
interested in participating in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program will be responsible for making arrangements for their 
inspection personnel to attend these courses. FSIS's OOEET will 
coordinate with the States to help make the necessary training 
available to designated personnel in the State. For example, if a State 
has a significant number of designated personnel that need to be 
trained Federal inspection methodology, FSIS could arrange to conduct 
training courses at a location within the State so that all designated 
State personnel can attend.
    As it does for training costs associated with the State MPI 
program, FSIS will reimburse States for any eligible training costs 
associated with the cooperative interstate shipment program, including 
necessary travel costs. However, instead of reimbursing the State for 
50% of the eligible costs, FSIS will reimburse 60% of a State's 
eligible costs associated with training designated State personnel.
    As discussed above, for a State to qualify for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program, its designated State personnel will need 
to attend FSIS-sponsored training in person. Thus, FSIS will not be 
providing the required training through on-line courses as suggested by 
the comment. The Agency may, however, make supplemental training 
materials available on-line.
5. ``Same as'' Laboratory Testing and Analysis
    The preamble to the proposed rule explained that to qualify for an 
interstate shipment program, States will need to demonstrate that the 
laboratory services that they intend to use to analyze regulatory 
product samples from selected establishments are capable of conducting 
the same chemical, microbiological, physical, and pathology testing as 
are required under the Federal meat and poultry products inspection 
programs (74 FR 47652). The preamble also explains that FSIS's Office 
of Public Health Science (OPHS) will provide laboratory audit 
assistance to the State to verify that the methodologies used by a 
State's laboratory services to analyze samples from selected 
establishments are capable of producing the same results as the 
methodologies used by FSIS laboratories.
    Comment: Some comments agreed that State-inspected establishments 
participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program should be 
subject to the same regulatory sampling programs as those established 
in the Federal inspection program. One comment stated that positive 
results on pathogen and residue testing on products produced in 
selected establishments should lead to the same regulatory actions that 
federally-inspected establishments are subjected to.
    Two comments stated that they were encouraged by the requirements 
for regulatory sampling and laboratory analysis described in the 
proposed rule. The comments stated that a robust residue, 
microbiological, and pathological analysis capability will assure 
accuracy of these test results, which, according to the comments, is 
essential for maintaining foreign markets.
    Response: The comments present valid reasons for requiring that the 
selected establishments participating in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program be subject to the same regulatory sampling required 
under the Federal program.
    Comment: Several comments requested that FSIS clarify its 
expectations with regard to the laboratory services used by States to 
analyze samples under the cooperative interstate shipment program. Many 
comments specifically asked whether FSIS expects these laboratories to 
be (International Organization for Standards) ISO accredited. Several 
comments expressed concern that if FSIS requires laboratories that 
analyze samples for the cooperative interstate shipment program to be 
ISO accredited, some laboratories will have to abandon perfectly 
acceptable procedures, or possibly more up-to-date procedures, to 
perform the methodology executed at the FSIS laboratories. The comments 
also said that some states would need to hire additional personnel to 
perform the increased paperwork with no additional benefit in the 
quality or quantity of tests performed.

[[Page 24727]]

    Response: The laboratory services that States use to analyze 
samples collected under the cooperative interstate shipment must be 
capable of producing the same results as FSIS's laboratories. 
Therefore, to demonstrate that the laboratory services used by a State 
are sufficient for the State to qualify for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program, the State will need to show that the laboratory is 
accredited by an internationally recognized organization that accredits 
food testing laboratories against the ISO 17025 ``General Requirements 
for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories'' and AOAC 
``Guidelines for Laboratories Performing Food Microbiological and 
Chemical Analyses of Food and Pharmaceuticals Testing'' written by the 
Analytical Laboratory Accreditation Criteria Committee (ALACC). The 
assessment body that FSIS uses, the American Association for Laboratory 
Accreditation (A2LA), is the sole organization that incorporates ALACC 
into their program requirements. State labs would need to use A2LA or 
another accrediting body that incorporates ALACC and is a signatory and 
in good standing to the Mutual Recognition Arrangements of the 
International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).
    The laboratory will also need to use the protocols for analytical 
tests required for FSIS regulatory activities on meat and poultry 
products described in the FSIS Chemistry, Microbiological, and 
Pathology Laboratory Guidebooks. However, if the laboratory that a 
State intends to use to analyze samples for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program is unable to follow an FSIS method as written, the 
State may submit a justification to FSIS that: (1) Explains why the 
laboratory is unable to follow the FSIS methodology and (2) describes 
the modifications that the laboratory intends to make to the FSIS 
methodology. FSIS will evaluate the State's justification to determine 
whether the modification of FSIS methodology is minimal and supportable 
through validation or other evidence. FSIS will allow a State to use 
the modified method if the Agency determines that methodology is 
consistent with the original FSIS protocol and the State's method is 
capable of achieving results that are consistent with the corresponding 
FSIS method.
    To assist the States in developing laboratory services that are 
``the same as'' those provided under the Federal inspection program, 
FSIS is adopting a ``phased in'' approach for the States to become ISO 
17025 accredited. OPHS has developed a Quality Assurance (QA) checklist 
based on ISO 17025 and ALACC criteria. It is not as extensive as ISO 
17025, but contains minimum QA practices that laboratories should 
follow to be able to defend their results. The checklist is included as 
an appendix in FSIS's guidance for ``at least equal to'' State MPI 
programs. States that use services from laboratories that are not ISO 
17025 accredited but that can demonstrate that the laboratories meet 
the laboratory criteria in the FSIS QA checklist will be permitted to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program if they 
agree to actively seek and obtain ISO accreditation within two years. 
However, if the laboratory fails to actively seek or does not obtain 
the necessary accreditation, FSIS will terminate the State's 
cooperative agreement for the interstate shipment program.
    FSIS is developing materials to assist States whose laboratory 
services are pursuing ISO accreditation to meet the requirements to 
become accredited. States may also use an outside laboratory to analyze 
samples collected under the cooperative interstate shipment program if 
the outside laboratory has the necessary accreditation.
    States that currently use laboratories with active ISO 17025 
accreditations will need to submit the necessary documentation for FSIS 
to verify that the laboratories are ISO accredited and meet ALACC food 
laboratory requirements as assessed by an appropriate accreditation 
body. To remain eligible for the programs, States will need to 
demonstrate, through documented third-party audits or other appropriate 
documentation, that their laboratories are maintaining their 
accreditation and are continuing to use methods described in FSIS 
Laboratory Guidebooks.
    Comment: One comment asserted that instead of conducting the same 
number and type of sampling that is conducted under FSIS's sampling 
programs, the Agency should allow States to develop sampling programs 
that reflect the same number of samples over the broad spectrum of meat 
products produced under the cooperative interstate shipment program. 
According to the comment, States may very well conduct more sampling or 
more comprehensive sampling than Federal programs. The comment also 
suggested that FSIS provide States with production data to guide them 
in selecting the same number or more samples based on the same volumes 
under FSIS inspection programs.
    Response: To qualify for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program States must, at a minimum, collect and analyze the same number 
and type of regulatory product samples from selected establishments as 
are collected and analyzed under FSIS's inspection sampling program. If 
they have met the sampling requirements provided for in FSIS's 
regulatory sampling programs, States may collect additional samples or 
conduct additional analyses if they choose to do so. FSIS will provide 
guidance to States in determining the appropriate number of samples 
that they will need to collect to be the same as the Federal regulatory 
sampling program.
    Comment: Some comments noted that establishing a national 
laboratory program to analyze samples collected under the cooperative 
interstate shipment program would be more economically viable than 
requiring that each State program conduct a laboratory program that is 
``the same as'' FSIS's. According to the comments, it is economically 
unreasonable for States to set up and maintain equipment necessary for 
running extremely rare samples.
    Response: States that do not have the laboratory capability to 
conduct the necessary sampling and analyses required under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program are permitted to submit samples 
collected under the cooperative interstate shipment program to an 
outside laboratory that does. The States may rely on the sample results 
obtained from an outside laboratory if the State, in coordination with 
FSIS's OPHS, has verified that the laboratory has the necessary 
accreditation and is capable of producing the same results obtained by 
FSIS's laboratories.
    Comment: One comment stated that the level of oversight that FSIS 
intends to have over State laboratories under the cooperative 
interstate shipment program is unnecessary. The comment suggested that, 
if FSIS intends to oversee the analysis of samples collected from 
selected establishments, it should offer to analyze all samples from 
eligible establishments at FSIS laboratories at no cost to the State 
program.
    Response: FSIS does not intend to oversee the analysis of samples 
collected from selected establishments. The Agency intends to consult 
with the States to verify that the laboratories that States use to 
analyze samples from selected establishments are capable of producing 
the same results as FSIS's laboratories.
    Comment: One comment included a number of questions that the 
commenter requested FSIS address before the

[[Page 24728]]

Agency issues the final rule to implement the cooperative interstate 
shipment program. The questions are as follows:
     Will the kidney inhibition swab (KIS) test for detecting 
antimicrobial drug residues be required in establishments selected for 
the program, or will other tests be acceptable?
     If KIS is necessary, will every facility be required to 
have an incubator, or can samples be sent to the state laboratory, 
requiring only one incubator?
     If an establishment decides to participate in both the 
cooperative program and the state inspection program, would the 
sampling program required by FSIS be sufficient, or would they also 
have to participate in the State's sampling program?
     Could the selected establishments be put into the FSIS 
sampling program, with FSIS sending sample requests and supplies, and 
the samples analyzed at Federal labs?
     What process must be followed if a state's laboratory 
wants to request audit help?
     Will the recommendations of the auditor be the official 
required adjustments the lab must make to allow the state to 
participate in the program?
    Response: As noted above, the laboratory services that a State uses 
to analyze samples under the cooperative interstate shipment program 
must use methods that are capable of producing results that are ``the 
same as'' those obtained from the methods used by FSIS's laboratories. 
Therefore, the KIS test for detecting antimicrobial drug residues used 
by FSIS is the acceptable test. Samples may be sent to and analyzed by 
the State laboratory if FSIS has evaluated and approved any minor 
modifications to the procedures described in the FSIS Laboratory 
Guidebooks.
    If an establishment participates in both the cooperative interstate 
shipment program and the cooperative State MPI program, the sampling 
conducted under the cooperative interstate shipment program must be 
``the same as'' the sampling conducted under the Federal program, while 
the samples collected under the State MPI program must meet standards 
that are ``at least equal to'' the Federal program.
    States that participate in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program are responsible for scheduling, collecting and analyzing 
samples required under the program. FSIS will not collect or analyze 
regulatory samples for the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    The SEC assigned to the State will facilitate the process for the 
State to obtain the necessary audit assistance from FSIS's OPHS. As 
noted above, OPHS will provide guidance and advice on laboratory 
accreditation requirements. However, the laboratories themselves will 
be responsible for obtaining the necessary ISO accreditation.
6. Related Activities
    Comment: Some comments requested that FSIS clarify what States need 
to do to demonstrate they are able to ``conduct any related activities 
that would be required under a cooperative interstate shipment 
program,'' as required under the proposed regulations. The comments 
said that the final rule must specifically describe the ``related 
activities'' required under the cooperative agreement or else the 
Agency should remove this statement.
    One comment said that requiring that States conduct ``related 
activities'' adds requirements for a State program that are outside of 
what is authorized by the enabling statute, and is both unclear and 
unnecessary. The comment said that FSIS should not be attempting to 
impose ancillary requirements on the States through the cooperative 
agreement process. According to the comment, the State's ability to 
provide inspection service to selected establishments in accordance 
with the statute is all that is authorized and, therefore, all that is 
necessary.
    Response: The term ``related activities'' refers to any activities 
that are necessary to ensure that the inspection services provided to 
selected establishments are ``the same as'' the inspection services 
provided to Federal establishments. Such activities include, but are 
not limited to, scheduling, collecting and analyzing regulatory 
samples, issuing export certificates for establishments that will be 
exporting products to foreign countries, and verifying that selected 
establishments are humanely handling livestock in connection with 
slaughter.

E. Additional Conditions for State Participation

    In addition to requiring that a State's requests for an interstate 
shipment program include documentation to demonstrate that it is 
capable of providing the necessary inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State, the proposed regulations also require 
that, in its request, the State must agree to: (1) Provide FSIS with 
access to the results of all laboratory analyses conducted on product 
samples from selected establishments in the State; (2) inform the SEC 
for the State of any laboratory results that indicate that a product 
produced in a selected establishment may be adulterated or may 
otherwise present a food safety concern; and (3) if necessary, 
cooperate with FSIS to transition selected establishments in the State 
that have been deselected from a cooperative interstate shipment 
program to become official establishments (proposed 9 CFR 332.4(b)(3) 
and 381.187(b)(3)).
    The proposed regulations also provide that when States submit their 
requests for an interstate shipment program, they must include a list 
of establishments that have requested to participate in the program and 
that the State recommends for initial selection into the program 
(proposed 9 CFR 332.4(b)(1) and 381.187(b)(1)).
    Comment: Two comments suggested that FSIS remove the provision in 
the proposed regulations that requires that States give FSIS access to 
the results of all laboratories analyses conducted at selected 
establishments. The comments stated that such a requirement is 
unnecessary because the States are also required to notify the SEC of 
results that indicate that a product produced in a selected 
establishment may be adulterated or may otherwise present a food safety 
hazard.
    Response: Although the States are required to notify the SEC of 
laboratory results that indicate that a product produced in a selected 
establishment may be adulterated or present a food safety hazard, the 
SEC or other FSIS personnel also need to have access to the results of 
the laboratory analyses conducted on products produced in selected 
establishments to verify that these establishments are operating in a 
manner that complies with the Acts.
    Comment: One comment stated that, as written, the proposed 
requirement that States give FSIS ``access'' to all laboratory results 
could be interpreted as requiring that FSIS have electronic access, via 
a particular system, to the results of testing conducted by State 
programs. According to the comment, when an integrated electronic 
system for data sharing is developed, funded, and implemented, State 
programs will share laboratory results with FSIS electronically. The 
comment maintained that the cooperative interstate shipment program 
should not unintentionally limit the methods by which analytical 
results are shared with FSIS before an electronic system is fully 
operational.
    Response: The regulations do not prescribe the methods by which 
States are required to share their analytical results with FSIS. States 
may share analytical results with FSIS

[[Page 24729]]

electronically or they may provide hard copies. The only requirement is 
that they give FSIS access to these results upon request.
    Comment: One comment said that the proposed requirement that the 
State notify the SEC when laboratory results indicate that a product 
from a selected establishment may be ``adulterated or may otherwise 
present a food safety concern'' is overly broad and redundant. The 
comment asserted that any product that presents a food safety concern 
is, by definition, adulterated. The comment suggested that FSIS delete 
the phrase ``may otherwise present a food safety concern'' in the final 
regulations.
    Response: There may be instances in which a product presents a food 
safety concern but it is unclear as to whether the product is 
adulterated under the FMIA or PPIA. For example, a preliminary 
laboratory result may indicate that a product that has been distributed 
in commerce is contaminated with a pathogen but the laboratory needs to 
complete the analysis to confirm these results. The SEC needs to be 
made aware of these situations to verify that the establishment and 
States have responded to the preliminary result in a manner that 
complies with the Federal Acts and implementing regulations.
    Comment: One comment stated that, instead of requiring that a 
State's request for a cooperative interstate shipment program include a 
list of establishments that have submitted requests to participate in 
the program and that the State recommends for the program, the final 
regulations should permit States to submit a request for a cooperative 
interstate shipment program before they have identified establishments 
interested in being selected for the program. According to the comment, 
this would allow the State and Federal programs to work out any issues 
with their relationship before offering the program to establishments.
    Response: FSIS agrees with this comment. The Agency has modified 
the regulations to require that a State's request for a cooperative 
interstate shipment program include a list of establishments that have 
submitted a request to participate in the program, if any. This will 
allow States to request an agreement for a cooperative interstate 
shipment program before they have identified establishments interested 
in participating in the program. However, FSIS will only reimburse 
States for 60% of their eligible costs to administer the program if, 
after entering into a cooperative agreement, establishments in the 
State are selected for, and participate in, the program.
    Comment: A few comments stated that, in addition to verifying that 
States have sufficient authority, resources, personnel, training, 
sampling capability and laboratory capacity to provide the necessary 
inspection services to selected establishments in the State, FSIS will 
also need to monitor budget issues in participating States on an 
ongoing basis to ensure that States continue to have sufficient 
resources to participate in the program. The comments noted that many 
State governments are under financial duress and have had to make 
budget cuts in their State inspection programs. One comment said that 
even though FSIS is required to reimburse States for at least 60% of 
their eligible costs associated with the cooperative interstate 
shipment program, the Agency will need to verify that States interested 
in participating in the new program will be able to meet Federal 
inspection regulatory requirements during these hard economic times.
    Response: States that enter into an agreement with FSIS for a 
cooperative interstate shipment program will be required to prepare 
annual budgets to cover the costs for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program, maintain complete accounting records, and conduct all 
other financial accountability activities just as they do for the State 
MPI program. FSIS will terminate a State's agreement for a cooperative 
interstate shipment program if the State does not have sufficient 
finances to comply with all aspects of the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.

F. Selection Process

    Under the proposed regulations, State-inspected establishments that 
are interested in participating in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program must apply for the program through their State (proposed 9 CFR 
332.5(a)(1) and 381.515(a)(1)). If a State determines that an 
establishment operating under the State's meat or poultry products 
inspection program qualifies for selection into a cooperative 
interstate shipment program, and the State is able and willing to 
provide the necessary inspection services to the establishment, the 
State is to submit its evaluation of the establishment through the FSIS 
District Office that covers the State (74 FR 47653). The proposed rule 
provides that the FSIS Administrator, in coordination with the State, 
will decide whether to select the establishment for the program 
(proposed 9 CFR 332.5(b) and 381.151(b)).
    Comment: Some comments said that the State inspection program is 
the government entity best suited to begin the process of selecting 
establishments for the cooperative interstate shipment program. 
According to the comments the States, not the FSIS Administrator, 
should be responsible for selecting establishments to participate in 
the program. The comments suggested that after initiating the selection 
process, the State program could collaborate with the FSIS SEC, who can 
visit the establishments that are under consideration for selection 
into the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Response: FSIS agrees that the States are best suited to begin the 
process of determining which establishments in the State are eligible 
for selection to the cooperative interstate shipment program. 
Therefore, the proposed rule requires that establishments interested in 
participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program apply for 
the program through the State in which they are located (proposed 9 CFR 
332.5(a) and 381.515(a). After the State recommends establishments for 
the program, the law requires that the FSIS Administrator coordinate 
with the State to select establishments for the program (21 U.S.C. 
683(b)(1) and 472(b)(1)).
    Comment: One comment argued that the regulations do not need to 
include a process for selecting establishments to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program because establishments 
operating under the State MPI programs are already under an inspection 
system that provides for food safety in a manner that is ``at least 
equal to'' the Federal inspection program. According to the comment, 
there is no need for selection because the entire State program has 
already been approved.
    Response: The law requires that the FSIS Administrator, in 
coordination with the State, select establishments to participate in 
the new cooperative interstate shipment program (21 U.S.C. 683(b) and 
472(b)). There is nothing in the law to indicate that establishments 
operating under the existing State MPI programs have already been 
approved for the cooperative interstate shipment program. Therefore, 
these final regulations include procedures for selecting establishments 
for the program.
    Comment: One comment suggested that the final rule require that 
selected establishments undergo an on-site review by FSIS at least 30 
days before they become eligible to participate in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program. The comment noted that such a review would 
help to guarantee that selected establishments that wish to ship their 
meat products in interstate

[[Page 24730]]

commerce are in compliance with Federal law.
    Response: The preamble to the proposed rule explained that, as part 
of the selection process, the SEC assigned to a State, in coordination 
with the State, will verify that each establishment in the State that 
has applied to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program 
is in compliance with all Federal standards (74 FR 47653). To verify 
such compliance, the SEC will coordinate with the State to conduct on-
site reviews of each establishment that has applied, and that the State 
recommends, for selection into the program.
    Comment: One comment said that FSIS should better explain how 
establishments may be selected for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Response: The preamble to the proposed rule provides a detailed 
description of the proposed selection process. FSIS is adopting that 
process in this final rule.
    As proposed, State-inspected establishments that are interested in 
participating in a cooperative interstate shipment program will be 
required to apply for the program through the State agency that 
administers the State MPI program. States are responsible for 
establishing their own application procedures. The State will then 
evaluate the establishment to determine whether it qualifies for 
selection. To qualify for selection to the cooperative interstate 
shipment program, an establishment must:
     Have the appropriate number of employees;
     Not be ineligible for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program \2\;
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ Examples of establishments that are ineligible for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program include official Federal 
establishments, establishments located in a State that has a State 
MPI program, establishments in violation of the FMIA or PPIA, 
establishments that are the subject of a transition to become a 
Federal plant, and establishments located in a State without a State 
MPI program.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

     Be in compliance with all requirements under the State 
inspection program; and
     Be in compliance with all Federal meat or poultry products 
inspection requirements.
    If a State determines that an establishment operating under the 
State's MPI program qualifies for selection into a cooperative 
interstate shipment program, and the State is able and willing to 
provide the necessary inspection services to the establishment, the 
State is to submit its evaluation of the establishment through the FSIS 
District Office that covers the State. The FSIS Administrator, in 
coordination with the State, will then decide whether to select the 
establishment for the program.
    In deciding whether to select an establishment that the State has 
recommended for the cooperative interstate shipment program, the 
Administrator will consider whether the establishment qualifies for the 
program and whether the Agency has the resources that it needs to 
provide the required oversight of the establishment if it is selected 
for the program. Before an establishment can be selected, the SEC, in 
coordination with the State, must verify, through record reviews and 
on-site visits, that the establishment is in compliance with all 
Federal inspection requirements under the FMIA, PPIA, and their 
implementing regulations in title 9, chapter III, of the CFR.

G. Mark of Inspection and Official Number

    The proposed regulations require that inspection services for 
selected establishments be provided by designated State personnel, and 
that articles prepared or processed in a selected establishment that 
have been inspected and passed by designated personnel bear an official 
Federal mark of inspection (proposed 9 CFR 332.6(c) and 381.516(c)). 
The proposed regulations also require that the Federal mark contain a 
selected establishment number assigned to the establishment by the 
State. The proposal provides that the number must include, as a suffix, 
the abbreviation for the State in which the establishment is located, 
as well as the abbreviation ``SE'' for selected establishment (e.g. 
``38SETX'' as a number for a selected establishment in Texas). If the 
establishment processes poultry products, the suffix must also contain 
a ``P,'' (e.g., 38 SEPND for a selected poultry establishment in North 
Dakota) (proposed 9 CFR 332.5(c) and 381.515(c)). The proposed 
regulations also state that States that fail to assign an establishment 
number to selected establishments in the State and report the number to 
the SEC for the State will not qualify to participate in the program 
(proposed 9 CFR 332.5(d) and 381.515(d)).
    Comment: Some comments expressed concern that allowing State-
inspected meat and poultry products to bear a Federal mark of 
inspection will make it difficult to maintain the integrity of the 
Federal mark. One comment stated that the integrity of the Federal mark 
will be diminished if a State-inspected product distributed in 
interstate commerce is recalled or found to be adulterated. Another 
comment said that allowing State-inspected products to bear a Federal 
mark of inspection is misleading because consumers that see a Federal 
mark of inspection on the label of a meat or poultry product will think 
that the product is the same as all other federally-inspected products. 
The comment noted that the FMIA and PPIA both prohibit labeling that is 
false or misleading.
    Response: Under the 2008 amendments to the Acts, meat and poultry 
products produced under the cooperative interstate shipment that 
designated State personnel have determined are in compliance with all 
Federal standards are required to bear a ``Federal mark, stamp, tag, or 
label of inspection'' (21 U.S.C. 472(b)(1) and 683(b)(1)). Thus, 
requiring that articles prepared or processed in a selected 
establishment that have been inspected and passed by designated 
personnel bear an official Federal mark is consistent with the law. 
Such a requirement will not diminish the integrity of the Federal mark 
or be misleading to consumers, as suggested by the comments, because 
all meat and poultry products that bear the Federal mark will have been 
produced under Federal standards.
    Comment: Some comments maintained that it is not necessary to 
require that the meat and poultry products produced under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program bear a Federal mark of 
inspection because States that have MPI cooperative agreements already 
provide State marks. A State Department of Agriculture and a State 
agency commented that many State-inspected establishments prefer that 
their products bear the State mark of inspection. The comments claimed 
that requiring that selected establishments apply a Federal mark and 
identify the State in the establishment number is unacceptable to most 
plant owners. Another comment argued that requiring that a Federal mark 
of inspection be applied to products that have been inspected by a 
State inspector under a cooperative State meat inspection program is 
counterintuitive and does not accomplish the goal of providing for 
interstate shipment of State-inspected products.
    Response: The 2008 amendments to the Acts require that meat and 
poultry products produced under the cooperative interstate shipment 
program bear a Federal mark of inspection.
    As noted above, under the proposed regulations, the Federal mark is 
required to contain a selected establishment

[[Page 24731]]

number assigned to the establishment by the State. The selected 
establishment number is required to include, as a suffix, the 
abbreviation for the State in which the establishment is located, as 
well as the abbreviation ``SE'' for selected establishment (e.g. 
``38SETX'' as a number for a selected establishment in Texas). If the 
establishment processes poultry products, the suffix must also include 
a ``P'' before State abbreviation (e.g., 38 SEPND for a selected 
poultry establishment in North Dakota). Thus, although meat and poultry 
products produced in selected establishments will not bear a State mark 
of inspection, the State in which the product was produced can be 
readily identified by referencing the selected establishment number 
that is required to appear inside the Federal mark.
    Comment: Some comments agreed that products produced in selected 
establishments should bear a Federal mark of inspection but also 
suggested that such products be allowed to bear a State mark if the 
establishment so chooses. According to the comments, many State-
inspected establishments believe that compliance with their State 
inspection program requirements along with the Federal standards 
provides a marketing advantage and that appearance of the State mark 
may add value to State-inspected products sold in interstate commerce. 
One comment noted that because their State mark of inspection is an 
outline of the State, selected establishments in the State could use 
the State mark to promote their products interstate.
    Response: It is not necessary for meat or poultry products that 
have been processed or prepared in selected establishments to bear both 
a State and Federal mark because the product's State-of-origin can be 
identified by the selected establishment number that is required to 
appear in the Federal mark. Moreover, allowing products produced under 
Federal standards to bear both a Federal and State mark of inspection 
may be misleading to consumers and foreign trade partners because the 
law prohibits interstate shipment of products produced under State MPI 
programs. Allowing both Federal and State marks could also be confusing 
to consumers and make it difficult for them to identify products 
potentially implicated in outbreaks or subject to recall.
    Selected establishments that were interested in using the State 
mark to market meat or poultry products produced under the cooperative 
interstate shipment program could use labeling statements information 
to identify where the product was produced instead, provided that the 
statement is truthful and not misleading. For example, the label of a 
meat product produced in a selected establishment in Texas, could 
contain the statement ``prepared in Texas,'' if the statement is 
presented in a manner that is truthful and not misleading to consumers.
    Comment: Some comments suggested that instead of requiring that 
States assign a new official State establishment number to selected 
establishment, FSIS should allow establishments that participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program to retain their official State 
number in conjunction with the suffix ``SE.''
    Response: There is nothing in the proposed rule that would prevent 
a State from allowing establishments selected for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program to retain their official State number, 
provided that the suffix ``SE'' is added to original State 
establishment number. The ``SE'' suffix is necessary to make clear that 
the establishment associated with the number is a selected 
establishment.
    Comment: One comment noted that the proposed regulations identify 
the ``SE'' that is required to appear as part of a selected 
establishment's official State number as a suffix. The comment stated 
that the ``SE'' designation is, in fact, a prefix.
    Response: FSIS refers to the ``SE'' along with the State 
abbreviation as a ``suffix'' because these abbreviations follow the 
number assigned to the selected establishment.
    Comment: One comment objected to the provision in the proposed 
regulations that provide that a State that fails to assign an official 
State number to the selected establishments in the State and inform the 
SEC will be disqualified from participating in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program. The comment believed that disqualification 
is an overly harsh penalty for what may be a simple omission. The 
comment suggested that in the final rule, FSIS replace the statement 
that failure to assign an official number ``will disqualify the State'' 
to ``may disqualify the State.''
    Response: As explained in the preamble to the proposed rule, full 
compliance by a State with the requirements for assigning official 
establishment numbers to establishments selected for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program is essential if the program is to succeed 
(74 FR 57654). FSIS will give States that inadvertently fail to assign 
a proper establishment number to a selected establishment an 
opportunity to take corrective actions to comply with the regulations. 
However, failure to comply with the establishment number requirements 
in this final rule will disqualify a State from participating in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Comment: Several comments submitted by State Departments of 
Agriculture and State agencies requested that in the final rule FSIS 
make clear that it will permit selected establishments to produce 
products under both the cooperative interstate shipment program and the 
State MPI program. The comments noted that FSIS allows establishments 
with both a Federal grant and State grant of inspection to operate as 
both a Federal plant and a State plant if they maintain an appropriate 
separation by time or space between the State and Federal operations 
and that the products are appropriately marked. The comments noted that 
in a letter to the National Association of State Departments of 
Agriculture (NASDA) dated September 15, 2009, the Deputy Secretary of 
Agriculture said that FSIS expects to apply a similar policy to 
selected establishments that are interested in continuing to produce 
certain products solely for distribution in the State under the State 
MPI program. The comments maintained that allowing for this type of 
flexibility will benefit rural America and is necessary for the success 
of the new program.
    One comment said that if the final rule permits selected 
establishments to produce products under both the State MPI program and 
the cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS should allow these 
establishments to continue to apply the State mark to products that are 
not produced under the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Response: FSIS has considered these comments and has decided to 
revise the proposed regulations to allow selected establishments to 
conduct operations under both the cooperative interstate shipment 
program and the State MPI program if those establishments implement and 
maintain written procedures for complete physical separation of product 
and process for each operation by time or space. An establishment may 
provide for separation by space by conducting its State MPI operations 
in an area that is physically separate from the area in which it 
conducts operations under the cooperative interstate shipment program. 
Alternatively, an establishment may conduct each operation in the same 
area provided that the separation in space is sufficient to

[[Page 24732]]

ensure that potential food safety hazards, such as microbiological 
pathogens, if present, are not likely spread from one area to another 
through aerosolization, air ducts, air currents, employees, or other 
means and that there is no co-mingling of product. Establishments that 
chose to conduct both operations in the same area must clearly identify 
and distinguish the State MPI operation from the cooperative interstate 
shipment operation. For example, the establishment might designate 
certain employees on a given day to work exclusively on the State MPI 
operations and have these employees wear white clothing, and designate 
other employees to work exclusively on the cooperative interstate 
shipment operations and have these employees wear yellow clothing. The 
establishment could also color-code knives and other equipment 
associated with each operation.
    In addition to separation by space, an establishment may conduct 
the State MPI operations and cooperative interstate shipment operations 
at separate times if the establishment's procedures for separation 
address clean-up between operations. Establishments that conduct both 
operations in the same facility and on the same equipment, and that 
separate the operations by time, will need to fully clean and sanitize 
the facilities and equipment in between operations as set out in their 
Sanitation SOPs.
    Establishments that conduct operations under both the State MPI 
program and the cooperative interstate shipment program will also need 
to establish written procedures to ensure that product produced under 
the State MPI program will not become co-mingled with product produced 
under the cooperative interstate shipment program. The procedures will 
need to ensure that products produced under each program are 
appropriately identified as State MPI product or cooperative interstate 
shipment products, and that each product bears the appropriate mark of 
inspection.
    Establishment will also need to maintain physical separation of 
product produced under the State MPI program from products produced 
under the cooperative interstate shipment program throughout the 
process, either through the use of separate facilities or by designated 
areas for holding or storing products produced under separate 
operations.
    The meat or poultry products produced when the establishment is 
operating under the State MPI program will be required to bear the 
State mark of inspection and will only be permitted to be distributed 
within the State. Meat or poultry products produced when the 
establishment is operating under the cooperative interstate shipment 
program will be required to bear a Federal mark and may be shipped in 
interstate commerce.

H. Oversight and Enforcement--Selected Establishment Coordinator

    The preamble to the proposed rule explained that the statute 
requires that FSIS appoint a ``state coordinator'' to ``provide 
oversight and enforcement'' of the cooperative interstate shipment 
program and ``to oversee the training and inspection activities'' of 
State personnel designated to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments (74 FR 47654). When FSIS issued the proposed rule, the 
Agency explained that the ``state coordinator'' required by statute 
would be referred to as the ``selected establishment coordinator'' 
(SEC) in the proposed regulations to avoid confusion with the ``State 
coordinator'' under the Talmadge-Aiken program, which is a State 
employee. In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS also explained 
that the Agency had tentatively decided that the SEC would be an 
employee of the FSIS Office of Field Operations (OFO) and would be 
assigned to an FSIS district office.
1. SEC Definition and FSIS Program Area
    Comment: One comment stated that the codified text in the final 
rule should clarify that the term ``selected establishment 
coordinator'' as used in the implementing regulations is synonymous 
with the term ``state coordinator'' under the statute. The comment said 
that there should not be both a State coordinator and an SEC.
    Response: As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, the term 
``State coordinator'' is often used to refer to a State employee under 
the Talmadge-Aiken program. Therefore, to make clear that the ``State 
coordinator'' for the cooperative interstate shipment program is an 
FSIS employee, this final rule identifies that employee as the FSIS 
``selected establishment coordinator'' in the codified text. The 
codified text in the final rule does not provide for both a State 
coordinator and an SEC.
    Comment: Some comments stated that, instead of being under the 
direct supervision of an FSIS District Manager, as FSIS tentatively 
decided in the proposed rule, the SEC should be under the direct 
supervision of the Secretary of Agriculture as provided under the 
statute.
    Other comments agreed with FSIS's tentative determination that the 
SECs operate out of the district offices. One comment noted that the 
SEC is a Federal employee. The comment stated that, as such, it is 
appropriate that the SEC be stationed at the district office and report 
to a District Manager and ultimately, FSIS headquarters. The comment 
asserted that the SEC should not be stationed at the State meat and 
poultry inspection agency, but should maintain frequent communication 
with State agency officials.
    Response: The Secretary of Agriculture has delegated the 
administration and enforcement of the cooperative interstate shipment 
program to FSIS. Since the SEC will be an FSIS employee that operates 
out of the FSIS district office, it is appropriate for the SEC to be 
under the direct supervision of the FSIS District Manager.
    Comment: Several comments were concerned about the Agency's 
tentative decision to assign the SEC to an FSIS district office. 
According to the comments, FSIS district offices are not always 
consistent in their interpretation and enforcement of the Agency's 
policies. The comments stated that administering the cooperative 
interstate shipment program from different district offices will make 
it difficult for FSIS to implement and enforce the program in a 
consistent manner. The comment suggested that, instead of assigning 
SECs to multiple district offices, FSIS should designate a single 
entity within the Agency to implement and enforce the cooperative 
interstate shipment program.
    Some comments suggested that FSIS create a branch in OPEER, similar 
to the Federal/State Audit Branch (FSAB), or assign the FSAB to 
administer, review, and enforce the cooperative interstate shipment 
program. The comments noted that the OPEER/FSAB is already responsible 
for verifying that the State MPI programs are operating in a manner 
that is ``equal to'' the Federal standards, and States now spend a 
considerable amount of time providing information to OPEER/FSAB. The 
comments stated that allowing a centralized Agency branch, such as the 
OPEER/FSAB, to administer and enforce the cooperative interstate 
shipment program will promote consistency in the program by providing 
the FSIS SECs, the State programs, and selected establishments with a 
single point of contact for guidance, policy implementation, and 
enforcement.
    Response: The FSIS SEC is required to provide ``oversight and 
enforcement'' of the cooperative interstate shipment program and ``to 
oversee the training

[[Page 24733]]

and inspection activities'' of State personnel designated to provide 
inspection services to selected establishments (21 U.S.C. 683(d)(1) and 
472(d)(1)). As noted above, when FSIS issued the proposed rule, it had 
tentatively decided that the SEC would be an employee of the FSIS 
Office of Field Operations (OFO) assigned to an FSIS District Office. 
Because OFO has expertise in management and enforcement of Federal 
inspection standards, FSIS is affirming that decision. The SEC will be 
an OFO employee assigned to an FSIS district office as proposed.
    As noted by the comments, the OPEER/FSAB is responsible for 
conducting comprehensive audits of Federal and State MPI programs. 
OPEER/FSAB verifies that State MPI programs are operating in a manner 
that is ``at least equal to'' the Federal program. Although OPEER/FSAB 
will not have direct oversight and enforcement of the cooperative 
interstate shipment program, once the cooperative interstate shipment 
program is fully implemented, the OPEER/FSAB will be responsible for 
auditing that program to verify that it is operating in a manner that 
is ``the same as'' the Federal inspection program.
2. Number of SECs per State
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explained that the 
number of States in an FSIS district assigned to an SEC will likely 
depend on several factors, including, but not limited to: (1) The 
number of States and selected establishments, if any, that participate 
in the cooperative interstate shipment program; (2) the location of 
each selected establishment; (3) the number of State inspection 
personnel providing inspection services to selected establishments in a 
State; (4) the complexity of the operations conducted at each selected 
establishment; and (5) the schedule of operations for each selected 
establishment (74 FR 47654). The preamble also noted that the number of 
States assigned to an SEC would also need to be based on consideration 
of the most effective allocation of available Agency resources.
    In the PRIA to the proposed rule, FSIS also estimated that 13 full-
time equivalent FSIS employees would be needed to perform the SEC 
functions for the 16 States expected to participate in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program (74 FR 47660). If 400 establishments 
participate in the new program, the Agency estimated each SEC will be 
responsible for 31 establishments in a geographically-limited area.
    Comment: Several comments, most submitted by consumer advocacy 
organizations, stated that 13 SECs to oversee cooperative interstate 
shipment programs in 16 States is not sufficient to provide adequate 
oversight of the new program. The comments urged FSIS to assign a 
separate SEC to each State that participates in the program. The 
comments asserted that to effectively verify that selected 
establishments operating in a manner consistent with the Acts, the SECs 
need to be spending most of their time in these establishments rather 
than driving from state-to-state. One comment said that when the 
provisions of the law were negotiated, the parties understood that 
there was to be one SEC per State.
    Other comments questioned whether the Agency's estimate of one SEC 
for 31 establishments is adequate to ensure that these establishments 
are operating in a manner that complies with the Acts. The comments 
stated that FSIS must provide enough flexibility to reduce the number 
of establishments covered by an SEC if circumstances warrant.
    One comment expressed concern over the statement in the proposed 
rule that ``[t]he number of States assigned to an SEC would also need 
to be based on consideration of the most effective allocation of 
available Agency resources.'' The comment stated this sentence 
demonstrates that there is reason to be concerned that the new program 
may not receive adequate resources to best protect public health and 
safety. The comment maintained that there should be at minimum one SEC 
per participating State and that the SEC's sole function should be 
oversight and enforcement of the program, unless the State has so few 
participating establishments that a full-time SEC is not warranted.
    Response: As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, the number 
of SECs needed to provide effective oversight of the cooperative 
interstate shipment program will depend on several factors, all of 
which are intended to ensure that there is sufficient Federal oversight 
of the program. FSIS agrees with the comments that stated that the SECs 
should be spending most of their time overseeing activities in selected 
establishments, and the Agency intends to structure the SEC's 
assignment in a manner that will, to the greatest extent possible, 
limit the time spent traveling between selected establishments. In some 
instances, this will require that an SEC cover selected establishments 
located in different States, particularly in States with selected 
establishments located near the State borders.
    As noted above, FSIS estimated that there would be one SEC for 31 
establishments in a geographically-limited area. This number is an 
estimate and assumes a certain level of participation by State-
inspected establishments that employed fewer than 35 employees when the 
2008 Farm Bill was enacted. The actual number of establishments 
assigned to an SEC will depend on a number of factors, including the 
complexity of the operations conducted at the selected establishments 
and the schedule of operations for each selected establishment.
3. Frequency of SEC Visits
    As required under the statute, the proposed regulation provided 
that the FSIS SEC is to visit each selected establishment in the State 
on a regular basis to verify that these establishments are operating in 
a manner that is consistent with the Acts and the implementing 
regulations (proposed 9 CFR 332.7(a) and 318.517(a)). In the preamble 
to the proposed rule, FSIS noted that the SEC's frequency of visits and 
oversight activities for each selected establishment will need to 
reflect the type of operations conducted by a selected establishment, 
as well as the establishment's production processes (74 FR 47654). The 
Agency requested comments on how frequently the SEC should visit each 
establishment under his or her jurisdiction.
    Comment: Several comments said that, since the law requires that 
the SECs file quarterly reports on the status of the selected 
establishment under their jurisdiction, they should visit each selected 
establishment at least quarterly. Some comments stated that requiring 
that the SEC visit selected establishments more often than once a 
quarter would seem overly burdensome and ineffective. One comment 
suggested that FSIS modify the proposed regulation to read that the SEC 
will visit, ``each selected establishment in the State on a regular 
basis, but no less frequently than quarterly, to verify that the 
establishment is operating in a manner that is consistent with the 
Act.''
    One comment stated that requiring quarterly or bi-annual visits 
will allow the SECs to both cover their assigned establishments and 
conduct the day-to-day operations of managing the program for their 
region. The comment said that if a problem arises, the SEC can visit 
the establishment more frequently. The comment suggested that SECs also 
rely on State inspection personnel to advise them if additional visits 
are needed.

[[Page 24734]]

    Many comments stated that the frequency of the SEC's visits should 
be based on the performance of the establishment. The comments noted 
that the number of visits may need to be higher when the program is 
first implemented while the State inspection personnel gain experience 
with the program's regulatory requirements. Two comments suggested that 
initially, the visits should be weekly and that subsequent visits 
should be based on the establishment's performance.
    One comment said that the final regulations should clearly state 
that the frequency of the SEC's visits shall be based on the 
performance of the establishment's food safety control systems. The 
comment maintained that such a statement will ensure judicious use of 
FSIS resources and create an additional incentive for the establishment 
to effectively operate their food safety control systems.
    One comment stated that the SEC should visit selected 
establishments no more frequently than FSIS front line supervisors 
typically visit federally-inspected establishments in their circuit. 
Another comment said that the SECs will need to visit selected 
establishments quite frequently to ensure that they are in compliance 
with Federal standards. One comment stated the goal in determining how 
frequently SECs should visit establishments under their jurisdiction 
should be to provide a statistically relevant sample to check on the 
level of compliance and performance of inspections by state inspectors.
    One comment suggested that in addition to prescribing the frequency 
of SEC visits, the final regulations should specify that the SEC's 
visits to selected establishments are to occur at different times and 
be unannounced.
    Response: The comments submitted on this issue indicate that there 
is a general lack of consensus on how frequently the SEC should visit 
selected establishments in the States. As noted above, some comments 
suggested that the SEC conduct quarterly or even bi-annual visits, 
while others suggested that the SEC visit each selected establishment 
at least weekly.
    The 2008 amendments to the Acts do not specify how frequently the 
SECs are to visit selected establishments, but they do provide that the 
SEC ``* * *shall visit selected establishments with a frequency that is 
appropriate to ensure that selected establishments are operating in a 
manner that is consistent with this Chapter (including regulations and 
policies under this Chapter (21 U.S.C. 683(d)(3)(a) and 472(d)(3)(a)). 
The Senate Committee report that explains this provision states that 
``[i]t is the Committee's intent that the [SEC] inspect selected 
establishments frequently each month'' (S. Rep. No. 110-20, 110th 
Cong., 1st Sess. (2007), pp 211-214)).
    Therefore, after considering the comments on this issue, as well as 
the language in both the statute and the Senate Committee report, FSIS 
has decided not to prescribe how frequently SECs are to visit selected 
establishments under their jurisdiction. Instead, the Agency is 
revising the proposed rule to clarify that the frequency with which the 
SEC will visit selected establishments under the SEC's jurisdiction 
will be based on a number of factors, including the complexity of the 
operations conducted at the selected establishment, the establishment's 
schedule of operations, and the establishment's performance under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. The Agency has concluded that 
such an approach will ensure that the number of SEC visits reflects the 
appropriate level of oversight needed for each selected establishment.
    FSIS agrees with the comments that noted that the number of SEC 
visits may need to be higher when the program is first implemented in 
order for the State personnel to gain experience in enforcing Federal 
food safety standards. FSIS also intends to schedule some unannounced 
SEC visits to selected establishments, as suggested by the comments. 
However, the SEC will also conduct scheduled visits to selected 
establishments to give State personnel the opportunity to prepare to 
discuss issues related to their role in enforcing Federal standards.
    Although FSIS is not prescribing a specific minimum number of SEC 
visits, based on the statement in the Senate Committee report, FSIS has 
concluded that bi-annual or quarterly visits to selected 
establishments, as suggested by some comments, are most likely not 
frequent enough to carry out the intent of the statutes.
    Comment: One comment stated that the provision in the proposed rule 
that allows the SEC, in consultation with the District Manager, to 
designate qualified FSIS personnel to visit a selected establishment on 
behalf of the SEC is an appropriate use of Agency resources. The 
comment said that assigning other designated FSIS personnel to visit 
establishments on behalf of the SEC makes sense from a practical and 
financial standpoint. The comment stated that FSIS could use inspection 
personnel who are already out in the field to conduct visitations to 
check compliance on a more frequent basis than sending the SEC into the 
field.
    Response: FSIS agrees that providing for qualified FSIS personnel 
to visit selected establishment on behalf of the SEC is an appropriate 
use of Agency resources.
4. SEC Duties--Oversight
    Comment: Some comments supported the level of Federal oversight 
provided for in the proposed regulations as necessary to maintain the 
safety and security of all meat and poultry products distributed in 
interstate commerce. One of the comments stated that any cooperative 
interstate shipment program must be federally driven and that FSIS must 
be in charge.
    Other comments complained that the proposed rule would give the SEC 
an excessive and unnecessary level of Federal oversight over the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. The comments stated that FSIS 
currently evaluates ``at least equal to'' State MPI programs through 
reviews of State self-assessment and through an on-site evaluation of 
the State's program every three years. The comments asserted that this 
evaluation methodology has proven effective for assuring that State 
programs are in compliance with Federal requirements. The comments said 
that FSIS should, to the extent allowed by statute, consider using this 
same method for evaluating a State's performance under the new 
cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Response: FSIS disagrees with the comments that stated that the 
proposed rule would give the SEC an excessive and unnecessary level of 
Federal oversight over the cooperative interstate shipment program. As 
noted throughout this document, under the Acts, as amended by the 2008 
Farm Bill, the FSIS Administrator is required to designate an FSIS 
employee as an SEC for each State to ``provide oversight and 
enforcement of the program'' and to ``oversee the training and 
inspection activities'' of the designated State personnel providing 
inspection services to a selected establishment. (21 U.S.C. 683(d)(1) 
and 472(d)(1)). The Acts also require that the SEC visit selected 
establishments as frequently as necessary to ensure that these 
establishments are operating in a manner consistent with the Federal 
Acts (21 U.S.C. 683(d)(3) and 472(d)(3)). Thus, the level of Federal 
oversight that the proposed rule provides for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program reflects the level of oversight that is 
required by law.
    FSIS disagrees with the comments that suggested that the Agency use

[[Page 24735]]

OPEER/FSAB's evaluation methodology to oversee a State's performance 
under the new cooperative interstate shipment program. As noted by the 
comments, the OPEER/FSAB conducts comprehensive audits of the State MPI 
programs to verify that States are enforcing laws and regulations that 
``are at least equal to'' to requirements of the Federal Acts. The 
evaluation methodology used by the OPEER/FSAB is designed to provide a 
comprehensive annual assessment of the State MPI programs rather than 
continuous Federal oversight and enforcement of these programs. Thus, 
this methodology would not provide the necessary level of oversight 
that the Acts require for the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Comment: Some comments expressed concern that the proposed rule 
would give ``de facto constant regulatory oversight authority'' to the 
FSIS SEC. The comments stated that this would basically give State 
personnel working in selected establishments two supervisors. According 
to the comments, this chain-of-command will create confusion and 
needless redundancy.
    One comment said that the SEC needs to work with the States to 
coordinate Federal oversight of the program to reduce the burden on the 
selected establishments to the extent possible. The comments stated 
that the program should not become one in which both Federal and State 
officials are routinely inspecting the same facilities.
    Another comment agreed with the provision in the proposed rule that 
stated that the SEC's role is limited to oversight and enforcement of 
the program. The comment also agreed that the State program should 
continue to be responsible for the direct supervision of designated 
State personnel.
    Response: The proposed rule makes clear that inspection services 
for selected establishments participating in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program must be provided by designated personnel, who will be 
under the direct supervision of a State employee (proposed 9 CFR 
332.6(b) and 381.516(b)). Although the SEC will be responsible for 
overseeing the inspection activities of the designated personnel, the 
State program will continue to be responsible for the direct 
supervision of all designated State personnel. Thus, the comment that 
stated that the proposed rule would give State personnel working in 
selected establishments two supervisors is inaccurate.
5. SEC Duties--Enforcement
    The proposed regulation gave the SEC the authority to initiate any 
appropriate enforcement action provided for in the FSIS rules of 
practice in 9 CFR part 500 if the SEC determines that a selected 
establishment under his or her jurisdiction is operating in a manner 
that is inconsistent with the Acts (proposed 9 CFR 332.9(b) and 
381.189(b)). As noted in the preamble, such actions include regulatory 
control actions, withholding actions, and suspensions (74 FR 47655).
    Comment: Some comments supported the proposed enforcement 
provisions. One comment stated that it is appropriate for the SECs to 
have the same authority to initiate enforcement actions with respect to 
selected establishments as FSIS inspection personnel are authorized to 
do with federally-inspected establishment. The comment also supported 
the proposed requirement that selected establishments provide FSIS 
officials with ``access to all establishment records required under the 
Act and the implementing regulations in this chapter.''
    Some comments said that the proposed rule's enforcement provisions 
go beyond what is authorized under the statute and will result in 
duplicative efforts. The comments asserted that the designated State 
personnel, not the SEC, should be responsible for initiating 
enforcement action in selected establishments.
    Response: Under the proposed rule, designated State personnel are 
responsible for providing the necessary inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State. The SEC is responsible for verifying that 
the designated personnel are providing inspection services in 
compliance with the Acts.
    In the preamble to the proposed rules, FSIS explained that to 
verify that designated personnel are providing the necessary inspection 
services, the SEC for the establishment, in coordination with the 
State, will verify that the designated personnel are correctly applying 
Federal inspection methodology, making decisions based upon the correct 
application of this methodology, accurately documenting their findings, 
and, when authorized to do so, implementing enforcement actions in 
accordance with the FSIS Rules of Practice in 9 CFR part 500 (74 FR 
47655). Thus, the proposed rule makes clear that, as part of their 
inspection activities, designated State personnel are responsible for 
initiating enforcement actions in selected establishments if such 
personnel determine that an enforcement action is authorized under 9 
CFR part 500.
    The 2008 amendments to the Acts provide that if the SEC determines 
that any selected establishment is in violation of any requirement of 
the Acts, the SEC is required to: (1) Immediately notify the 
Administrator and (2) ``deselect'' the establishment or suspend 
inspection at the establishment (21 U.S.C. 683(d)(3)(C) and 
472(d)(3)(C)). As explained in the preamble to the proposed rule, in 
adopting this language, Congress intended that the SEC ``* * * shall be 
provided all the tools necessary * * * to prevent or control any food 
safety issue that would harm human health'' (S. Rep. No. 220, 110th 
Cong., 1st Sess., at 211 (2007)). Therefore, to ensure that the SEC has 
the appropriate authority to address any food safety issues as required 
by the statutes, the proposed rule authorizes the SEC to initiate any 
appropriate enforcement action provided for in 9 CFR part 500 if he or 
she determines that a selected establishment under his or her 
jurisdiction is operating in a manner that is inconsistent with the 
Acts or their implementing regulations.
    Thus, under the proposed rule, designated State personnel are 
responsible for taking appropriate enforcement action for violations of 
Federal food safety standards in selected establishments when such 
actions are authorized under 9 CFR part 500. The SEC covering a 
selected establishment is also authorized to take any necessary 
enforcement actions if the SEC identifies the need to take such action 
when conducting oversight activities at a selected establishment.
    Comment: One comment agreed with the proposed enforcement 
provisions and stated that selected establishments should be subject to 
Food Safety Assessments (FSAs) just as federally-inspected 
establishments are. The comment also maintained that NRs issued to 
selected establishments and other enforcement action should be made 
available through the Freedom of information Act (FOIA).
    Response: States that participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program will need to conduct comprehensive FSAs in order to 
properly enforce Federal food safety standards. As discussed in the 
preamble to the proposed rule, the SEC will also be authorized to 
conduct an FSA, or to request that an FSIS Enforcement, Investigation, 
and Analysis Officer (EIAO) conduct an FSA, if the SEC in consultation 
with the District Manager determines that such action would help

[[Page 24736]]

determine whether the establishment is operating in compliance with the 
Acts.
    Any records that the States and selected establishment are required 
to provide to FSIS to allow the Agency to provide the necessary 
oversight and enforcement of the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, including NRs issued to selected establishments, will be made 
available to the public through the FOIA if the records are not subject 
to an exemption under the FOIA.
    Comment: One comment stated that the final rule needs to specify an 
appeals process for non-compliances to ensure that all establishments 
that participate in the program understand the process and their 
rights.
    Response: The proposed rule provided that selected establishments 
participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program would be 
subject to the notification and appeal procedures set out in 9 CFR part 
500 (proposed 9 CFR 332.9(b) and 381.519(b)). Thus, the proposed rule 
did provide for an appeals process for non-compliances.
6. SEC Duties--Quarterly Reports
    As provided for in the law, the proposed rule provides that the SEC 
is to prepare a report on a quarterly basis that describes the status 
of each selected establishment under the SEC's jurisdiction (proposed 9 
CFR 332.8 and 381.518).
    Comment: Some comments requested clarification on the type of 
information the SECs will be required to include in their quarterly 
reports. One comment asked whether the quarterly reports will include 
the SEC's assessment of the performance of the designated State 
personnel or of the selected establishments. One comment stated that 
the quarterly report should include the SEC's assessment of the State 
program's performance in providing inspection services to selected 
establishments and not be limited to the performance of the designated 
personnel.
    Response: The proposed rule provided that the SEC quarterly report 
will: (1) Include the SEC's assessment of the performance of the 
designated personnel in conducting inspection activities at selected 
establishments and (2) identify the selected establishments that the 
SEC has verified are in compliance with all Federal requirements, those 
that have been deselected, and those that are transitioning to become 
Federal establishments (proposed 9 CFR 332.8(b) and 381.518(b). Thus, 
the quarterly report includes the SEC's assessment of the performance 
of both the selected establishments and the designated State personnel.
    The designated personnel's ability to provide inspection services 
to selected establishments in a manner that complies with Federal 
standards reflects the State's ability to administer the cooperative 
interstate shipment program. Thus, the quarterly report will reflect 
the SEC's assessment of the State program's performance in providing 
inspection services to selected establishments.
    Comment: One comment asserted that the SEC's do not need to visit 
selected establishments on a quarterly basis to complete the quarterly 
report. The comment stated that SECs will be able to determine the 
status of selected establishments based on routine reports and other 
documentation submitted by designated State personnel. Another comment 
stated that requiring an assessment on a quarterly basis would 
establish a burdensome Federal oversight process for States that 
participate in the program.
    Response: As discussed above, the 2008 amendments to the Acts 
require that SECs visit selected establishments with a frequency that 
is appropriate to ensure that selected establishments are operating in 
a manner that is consistent with the Federal Act. There is nothing in 
the law to indicate that the SEC is to determine the status of selected 
establishments based on routine reports and other documentation 
submitted by designated State personnel, as suggested by the comments.
    FSIS disagrees with the comment that stated that requiring an 
assessment on a quarterly basis would establish a burdensome Federal 
oversight process for States that participate in the program. As noted 
above, the 2008 amendments to the Acts require that the SECs prepare a 
quarterly report.
    Comment: Some comments asked whether the State MPI programs would 
have a role in preparing the quarterly reports. One comment asked 
whether the States will receive copies of the quarterly reports from 
the SECs.
    Response: The proposed rule provides that the SEC, in coordination 
with the State, will verify that selected establishments in the State 
are receiving the necessary inspection services from designated State 
personnel and that these establishments are eligible, and remain 
eligible, to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program 
(proposed 9 CFR 332.8(b) and 381.517(b)). Although the SEC is 
responsible for preparing the quarterly reports, the SEC will 
coordinate with the State to assess the status of selected 
establishments under the SEC's jurisdiction. FSIS will provide the 
State copies of the SEC's quarterly reports on the status of selected 
establishments in the State upon request.

I. Deselection and Transition To Become Federal Establishment

    The proposed regulations provide that the FSIS Administrator will 
``deselect'' a selected establishment that becomes ineligible to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program (proposed 9 
CFR 332.10(a) and 381.520(a)). The preamble to the proposed rule 
explained that an establishment could become ineligible for the program 
for various reasons, such as hiring additional employees or for 
violating the Federal Acts (74 FR 47656). The preamble also noted that 
establishments located in a State whose cooperative interstate shipment 
program was terminated would also be ineligible for the program. 
Consistent with the statute, the proposed regulations require that a 
deselected establishment be transitioned to become a Federal 
establishment (proposed 9 CFR 332.11 and 381.521).
1. Establishment Deselection
    Comment: One comment requested that FSIS provide more specific 
information on the circumstances in which an establishment will be 
deselected for non-compliance with the Acts. The comment asked whether 
a non-compliance report (NR) or a Notice of Intended Enforcement (NOIE) 
could result in deselection. According to the comment, NRs and NOIEs 
can sometimes be subjective depending on the inspection program 
personnel writing them. The comment encouraged FSIS and State 
inspection program directors to work with selected establishments that 
have non-compliances or enforcement actions against them to help those 
establishments come back into compliance and successfully continue 
within the program. The comment also asked FSIS to provide proper 
oversight and training to the SECs to ensure that the standards for 
non-compliances and enforcement actions are applied consistently across 
the country.
    Response: As noted above, under the proposed rule, the SEC is 
authorized to initiate any appropriate enforcement actions authorized 
under the Agency's Rules of Practice in 9 CFR part 500, which include, 
among others, regulatory control actions, withholding actions, and 
suspensions (proposed 332.9(b) and 381.189(b)). The proposed 
regulations provide that if inspection at a selected establishment is 
suspended for any of

[[Page 24737]]

the reasons specified in 9 CFR 500.3 or 500.4, the Agency will provide 
an opportunity for the establishment to implement corrective actions 
and remain in the cooperative interstate shipment program or the Agency 
will move to deselect the establishment (proposed 9 CFR 332.9(c) and 
381.519(c)).
    The proposed rule provides that the decision to deselect a selected 
establishment under a suspension will be made on a case-by-case basis 
(proposed 9 CFR 332.9(d) and 381.519(d)). The proposed rule also states 
that in making this decision the FSIS Administrator, in consultation 
with the State, will consider, among other factors: (1) The non-
compliance that led to the suspension; (2) the selected establishment's 
compliance history; and (3) the corrective actions proposed by the 
establishment (proposed 9 CFR 332.9(d) and 381.519(d)). Thus, under 
certain conditions, the proposed rule does authorize the FSIS 
Administrator to coordinate with the States to help selected 
establishments with non-compliances come back into compliance and 
successfully continue within the program.
    FSIS will provide the SECs with the training they need to oversee 
and enforce the cooperative interstate shipment program in a manner 
that is consistent with the law and these implementing regulations.
    Comment: One comment asserted that the State, not the SEC, should 
initiate deselection of a selected establishment. The comment noted 
that some States have not incorporated 9 CFR part 500 into their State 
laws or regulations. The comment suggested that instead of referencing 
9 CFR part 500, the final regulations should give States the authority 
to take ``appropriate enforcement action'' against selected 
establishments when necessary.
    Response: Consistent with the law, under the proposed regulations, 
designated State personnel are required to provide inspection services 
in compliance with the Federal Acts and implementing regulations. Part 
of the designated personnel's inspection duties involves taking 
appropriate enforcement actions when authorized to do so. The FSIS 
Rules of Practice in 9 CFR part 500 identify the conditions under which 
inspection personnel are authorized to take enforcement actions and 
include the criteria for when those actions are warranted. Thus, unless 
they follow the procedures prescribed in the FSIS Rules of Practice, 
designated State personnel will be unable to properly enforce Federal 
standards in selected establishments.
    Because States are responsible for providing inspection services to 
selected establishments participating in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program, the States may recommend that an establishment be 
deselected from the program if the State determines that the 
establishment is not complying with the requirements of the program. 
FSIS is likely to accept the State's recommendation.
2. Deselected Establishments To Become Official Establishment
    Comment: Some comments supported the provisions in the proposed 
rule that require that establishments that become ineligible for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program be transitioned to become 
Federal establishments. These comments said that such a requirement is 
necessary to prevent establishments from attempting to move into and 
out of the program with no long-term commitment.
    Several comments stated that requiring that a deselected 
establishment transition to become a Federal establishment is a 
disincentive for establishments to participate in the program and could 
force deselected establishments that choose not to come under Federal 
regulation out of business. One comment suggested that instead of 
requiring that deselected establishments transition to become Federal 
establishments, FSIS should allow them to implement corrective actions 
and revert back to State inspection.
    Response: The 2008 amendments to the Acts authorize the Agency to 
establish a procedure to transition selected establishments that 
employ, on average, more than 25 employees to become Federal 
establishments (21 U.S.C. 683(b)(3)(A) and 472(b)(3)(A)). The 2008 
amendments also require that selected establishments that the 
Administrator determines to be in violation of any provision of the 
Acts be transitioned to become Federal establishments in accordance 
with the procedure developed to transition selected establishments that 
employ more than 25 employees (21 U.S.C. 683(h) and 472(g)). Thus, 
requiring that deselected establishments be transitioned to become 
Federal establishments is necessary to implement the law. The law does 
not authorize FSIS to allow deselected establishments to revert back to 
the State MPI program without transitioning to become a Federal 
establishment, even if such establishments implement corrective 
actions.
    Comment: Many comments stated that FSIS should allow establishments 
that have been deselected and successfully transitioned to become 
Federal establishments to revert back to the State MPI program if they 
choose. The comments stated that if FSIS is concerned that 
establishments might find it advantageous to periodically switch from 
under one jurisdiction to under another, the Agency could establish a 
reasonable time period, such as one-year, before an establishment that 
has transitioned to become a Federal establishment could revert back to 
a State's jurisdiction. One comment suggested that FSIS give 
establishments that have successfully transitioned to become Federal 
establishments the option to either revert to the State MPI program or 
be reselected for the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Response: After considering these comments, FSIS has decided to 
amend the proposed regulations to allow establishments that were 
deselected from the cooperative interstate shipment and that have 
successfully transitioned to become Federal establishments to revert 
back to the cooperative State MPI program after operating as a Federal 
establishment for one year.
    As noted above, the 2008 amendments to the Acts require that 
establishments that are in violation of the Acts be transitioned to 
Federal establishments. The amendments also authorize FSIS to deselect 
and transition to Federal establishments selected establishments that 
consistently employ more than 25 employees on average. However, the 
statutes are silent on whether establishments that have successfully 
transitioned to become Federal establishments must remain in the 
Federal program or whether they can later revert back to the State 
program. Therefore, FSIS has determined that the law does not prohibit 
such an action.
    Allowing deselected establishments that have successfully 
transitioned to become Federal establishments to revert back to the 
State MPI program will provide flexibility for establishments to 
determine which inspection system (Federal or State) best meets their 
needs. In addition, requiring that deselected establishments operate 
under Federal inspection for a year will promote food safety by 
ensuring that these establishments can perform in accordance with 
Federal standards before reverting back to the State program.
    The statutes provide that the Administrator, in coordination with 
the States, shall not select for the

[[Page 24738]]

cooperative interstate shipment program, an establishment that is a 
Federal establishment (21 U.S.C. 683 (b)(2)(C)(i), 683(b)(2)(F)). Thus, 
FSIS does not believe that the law would allow establishments that have 
been deselected from the cooperative interstate shipment program and 
transitioned to become a Federal establishment to be re-selected for 
the program at a later date.
3. Establishments Deselected for Exceeding Employee Threshold
    Comment: A few comments suggested that FSIS allow selected 
establishments that were deselected and transitioned to become Federal 
establishments because they now have more than 25 employees on average 
to revert back to the State MPI program at a later date if they reduce 
their average number of employees to fewer than 25. One of these 
comments noted that it is not inconceivable that a selected 
establishment could quickly exceed its employee-based eligibility 
threshold, forcing it to transition to an official Federal 
establishment, only to later discover that it does not desire to 
maintain the larger operation. The comment stated that in such case, 
the establishment should not be prohibited from reverting back to State 
jurisdiction or from participating in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program if it reduces its average number of employees to fewer 
than 25.
    One comment stated that selected establishments that have more than 
25 employees on average should be required to transition to become 
Federal establishments, and that once they have transitioned, they 
should not be permitted to revert back to the State MPI program. The 
comment stated that selected establishments should anticipate that as 
they grow and add additional employees beyond the 25 employee limit, 
they will be transitioned to the Federal inspection system. The comment 
stated that it is essential that establishments not be permitted to 
``forum shop'' for regulatory oversight. According to the comment, if 
establishments are meeting the requirements of the new program and are 
succeeding, there should be no reason why the establishments that 
outgrow this special program should not operate under Federal 
inspection.
    One comment asked whether an establishment that was deselected 
because its average number of employees exceeded 25 rather than for 
food safety violations will remain ineligible to participate in the 
program in the future.
    Response: As discussed above, FSIS has decided to amend the 
proposed rule to allow deselected establishments that have been 
transitioned to become Federal establishments to revert back to the 
State MPI program after successfully operating as a Federal 
establishment for one year. This amendment will apply to establishments 
that have been deselected for exceeding the average number of employees 
limit regardless of whether they reduce their average number of 
employees to fewer than 25 or not.
    As noted above, because the law prohibits Federal establishments 
from being selected for the cooperative interstate shipment program, 
FSIS does not believe that it should permit establishments that have 
been deselected from the program and transitioned to become Federal 
establishments to be re-selected for the program at a later date, 
regardless of the reason for the deselection.
Deselection and State Operations
    Comment: One comment stated that if the final regulations resulting 
from the proposal allow selected establishments to produce some 
products under State inspection and other products under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS must make clear that the 
provision that requires that deselected establishments transition to 
become Federal establishments only applies to operations conducted 
under the cooperative interstate shipment program. The comment asserted 
that selected establishments that produce certain products under a 
State MPI program should be permitted to continue these operations 
without transitioning to become a Federal establishment if the 
establishment is deselected from the cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Response: The requirements associated with the cooperative 
interstate shipment program only apply to operations that State-
inspected establishments conduct as part of that program. Thus, 
deselected establishments that conduct operations under both the 
cooperative interstate shipment program and the cooperative State MPI 
program will be required to transition the operations subject to the 
cooperative interstate shipment program to become a Federal 
establishment. These establishments may continue to produce products 
under the State MPI program if they maintain an appropriate separation 
by time or space between operations.
4. Voluntary Withdrawal
    Comment: Several comments requested that FSIS give selected 
establishments that continue to be eligible for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program the option to voluntarily leave the program 
and revert back to operating under the State MPI program. The comments 
noted that after being selected for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, some establishments may find that their businesses have 
changed such that they no longer need to ship their products 
interstate. The comments asserted that it makes no sense to force 
establishments that are in full compliance with the program's 
requirements but that no longer need to participate in the program to 
become Federal establishments.
    Most of the comments that requested that selected establishments be 
permitted to voluntarily leave the cooperative interstate shipment 
program and revert back to their State MPI programs also said that FSIS 
should allow these establishments to re-enter the program at a later 
date. These comments acknowledged that the rules should prohibit State-
inspected establishments from freely moving into and out of the program 
and suggested that the final regulations prescribe a waiting period 
that establishments that voluntarily leave the program must comply with 
before they may re-apply for the program. Most comments suggested a 
one-year waiting period, and one suggested a five year wait. One 
comment asked whether an establishment that voluntarily leaves the 
program will be allowed to re-apply for the program if it comes under 
new ownership at a later date.
    Response: FSIS has considered these comments and has concluded that 
it would not be inconsistent with the law to allow a selected 
establishment that is in full compliance with the cooperative 
interstate shipment program to voluntarily leave the program and 
operate under a State grant of inspection.
    The 2008 amendments to the Acts require that any establishment 
selected for the cooperative interstate shipment program that is in 
violation of any requirement of the Federal Acts be ``transitioned to a 
Federal establishment'' (21 U.S.C. 683(h) and 472(g)). However, the 
statutes do not address situations in which an establishment that is in 
full compliance with the Federal Acts elects to voluntarily withdraw 
from the program for business reasons, e.g., the establishment is in 
compliance with all

[[Page 24739]]

Federal standards but has been unable to establish a market for its 
products outside of the State. FSIS has concluded that allowing these 
establishments to voluntarily end their participating in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program will give them the flexibility 
they need to determine which inspection program can best meet their 
business needs.
    FSIS has also decided to permit establishments that have 
voluntarily left the cooperative interstate shipment program to apply 
for and be re-selected for the program at a later date. Allowing these 
establishments to be re-selected for the program presents little 
concern about regulatory forum shopping because they would be leaving 
the program for business reasons and not because they are having 
difficulty meeting Federal food safety standards.
    In addition, establishments that voluntarily withdraw from the 
cooperative interstate shipment program would need to re-apply through 
the State and be re-selected by the FSIS Administrator in coordination 
with the State in order participate in the program again at a later 
date. Both FSIS and the States are unlikely to select an establishment 
that has a history of applying for and then withdrawing from the 
program. Therefore, FSIS has decided that the one-year waiting period 
suggested by the comment is a reasonable amount of time for 
establishments that voluntarily leave the program to wait before they 
may re-apply for the program. Such a policy will give establishments 
that are in full compliance with the program flexibility to re-apply 
for the program if, at a later date, they find that there may be a 
market for their products in other States.
    Comment: One comment recommended that FSIS distinguish between 
selected establishments that want to withdraw completely from the 
program, and those that want to withdraw temporarily and resume 
operations under the program at a later date. According to the comment, 
such a distinction is necessary because many very small establishments 
operate on a seasonal basis or part of the year. The comment stated 
that the final regulations should include a process in which entities 
that operate on a seasonal basis could apply for a temporary withdrawal 
from the program. The comments said that the process could be similar 
to the process used by Federal establishments to apply for a temporary 
withdrawal of inspection.
    One comment stated that it is not uncommon for very small 
establishments to operate infrequently or in response to local consumer 
demands. The comment noted that State MPI programs are generally able 
to offer a great amount of flexibility in providing inspection services 
to these small establishments upon request. The comment recommended 
that FSIS provide for this type of practice in the final regulations 
implementing the cooperative interstate shipment program. The comment 
also stated that the decision to provide infrequent or sporadic 
inspection should be the State's.
    Response: As explained above, selected establishments that are in 
compliance with the cooperative interstate shipment will be permitted 
to voluntarily withdraw from the program. However, if these 
establishments want to resume operations as a selected establishment, 
they will need to re-apply and be re-selected for the program by the 
FSIS Administrator in coordination with the States.
    On the other hand, selected establishments that operate on a 
seasonal basis may also request a voluntary suspension of inspection 
from the State to cover times when the establishment does not operate. 
Selected establishments that are granted a voluntary suspension will 
not need to re-apply for selection to resume operations under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. As suggested by the comment, 
the decision to provide infrequent or sporadic inspection in response 
to a request from a selected establishment will be the State's.
    Comment: One comment suggested that FSIS consider implementing an 
open enrollment period during which State-inspected establishments 
could get in or out of the interstate shipment program without 
penalties, so long as they are qualified for the program. The comment 
said that FSIS could limit the number of times that establishments are 
allowed to make such changes. The comment claimed that such a program 
would give State-inspected establishments the option to take advantage 
of the program when it worked best for their business.
    Response: The proposed regulations specified how State-inspected 
establishments that are interested in participating in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program are to apply for the program, and FSIS is 
amending the proposed regulations to allow selected establishments that 
are in compliance with the program to voluntarily end their 
participation. Therefore, FSIS has concluded that it is unnecessary to 
establish an open enrollment period in which State-inspected 
establishments that qualify for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program could enter or withdraw from the program.
    The proposed regulations require that State-inspected 
establishments that are interested in participating in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program apply for the program through the State in 
which the establishment is located (proposed 9 CFR 332.5(a)(1) and 
381.515(a)(1)). The preamble to the proposed rule makes clear that 
States participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program 
will develop their own application procedures (74 FR 47653). Thus, 
State-inspected establishments that are interested in participating in 
the cooperative interstate shipment program will follow their State's 
application procedures to request that they be selected for the 
program.
    As explained above, an establishment that has been selected for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program and that is in compliance with 
all of the programs requirements may voluntarily end its participation 
at any time. Such establishments will be permitted to re-apply for the 
program after a waiting period of one year.
5. Termination of State's Cooperative Agreement
    Comment: Several comments asserted that selected establishments 
that become ineligible for the cooperative interstate shipment program 
because their State's agreement for the program was terminated should 
not be required to transition to become Federal establishments. 
Instead, the comments suggested that FSIS give these establishments the 
option of either applying for a Federal grant or reverting back to the 
State MPI program. The comments said that establishments that are 
deselected because the State agreement is terminated have no control 
over the circumstances under which they were deselected and, therefore, 
it is unfair to require that they become Federal establishments.
    A few comments asked FSIS to consider the impact of requiring that 
selected establishments transition to Federal establishments if the 
State's agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment program is 
terminated. According to the comments, such a requirement could affect 
the future viability of some of these establishments. The comments said 
that it would be devastating to local markets if deselected 
establishments had to shut down because they are not allowed to revert 
back to the State MPI program.
    Response: The 2008 amendments to the Acts do not require that 
establishments that are no longer

[[Page 24740]]

eligible to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program 
because they are located in a State whose agreement for such a program 
was terminated transition to become Federal establishments. Therefore, 
FSIS is amending the proposed rule to give these establishments the 
option to either revert back to the State MPI inspection program or 
obtain a Federal grant of inspection.
    If a State's agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program is terminated, some establishments that were operating under 
the cooperative interstate shipment program may be willing to forgo 
interstate shipment and revert back to the State MPI program because 
they prefer to receive inspection services from State personnel. Other 
establishments may prefer to continue to market their products 
interstate under a Federal grant of inspection. It only seems fair to 
give establishments that are in compliance with the requirements of the 
program, but that become ineligible because of a situation that is 
beyond their control, the option of transitioning to become a Federal 
establishment or reverting back to the State program.
    Comment: One comment stated that the decision to terminate a 
State's agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment program should 
not be taken lightly or without considering circumstances unique to the 
State and its selected establishments. The comment suggested that FSIS 
revise the provision in proposed rule that states: ``If the State fails 
to develop a corrective action plan, or the selected establishment 
coordinator for the State determines that the corrective action plan is 
inadequate, the Administrator will terminate the agreement for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program * * *'' to change ``will'' to 
``may.'' The comment stated that this revision will provide an 
appropriate degree of flexibility for the Administrator in deciding 
whether to terminate an agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Response: The proposed regulation provides that if the SEC 
determines that designated State personnel are providing inspection 
services to selected establishments in the State in a manner that is 
inconsistent with the Federal Acts and implementing regulations, the 
Administrator will provide an opportunity for the State to develop and 
implement a corrective action plan to address inspection deficiencies 
identified by the SEC (proposed 9 CFR 332.7(c) and 381.517(c)). The SEC 
will advise the State on the issues that the State needs to address to 
ensure that the corrective action plan adequately addresses the 
deficiencies identified by the SEC. However, if the State fails to 
develop a corrective action plan that adequately addresses the issues 
identified by the SEC, FSIS believes that the Administrator has no 
choice but to terminate the cooperative agreement. Therefore, the 
Agency is not changing ``will'' terminate the agreement to ``may'' 
terminate the agreement, as suggested by the comment.
7. Transition Procedures
    Comment: The proposed regulations provide that if a selected 
establishment is deselected, FSIS will coordinate with the State where 
the establishment is located to develop and implement a plan to 
transition the establishment to become an official establishment. One 
comment stated that FSIS needs to clearly state the procedures needed 
to transition a selected establishment to become a Federal 
establishment to ensure that all States and establishments that are 
interested in participating in the program agreement fully understand 
all of the requirements and potential consequences of deselection.
    Response: The 2008 amendments to the Acts authorize FSIS to develop 
a procedure to transition selected establishments to become Federal 
establishments if they employ more than 25 employees on average, or if 
the Administrator determines that they are in violation of any 
provision of the Acts (21 U.C.S. 683(b), 683(h), 472(b) and 472(h)). In 
the preamble to the proposed rule, the Agency explained that it was not 
prescribing specific procedures to transition selected establishments 
to become official establishments because the actions needed to 
successfully make such a transition are likely to depend on the reason 
the establishment was deselected (74 FR 47656). As an example, FSIS 
noted that an establishment that was deselected for violating the Acts 
would likely need to develop a corrective action plan to transition to 
an official establishment, while an establishment that was deselected 
for hiring additional employees would not.
    Therefore, consistent with the proposal, FSIS has decided to not 
prescribe specific procedures to transition selected establishments to 
become Federal establishments, as suggested by the comment. As was 
proposed, if a selected establishment is deselected from the 
cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS will coordinate with the 
State where the establishment is located to develop and implement a 
plan to transition the establishment. As noted in the preamble, at a 
minimum, such a plan will include: (1) Adding the establishment to an 
FSIS circuit; (2) replacing the establishment's State establishment 
number with a Federal number; and (3) replacing the designated 
personnel with FSIS personnel.
    Comment: One comment noted that in the proposed rule FSIS outlined 
some general procedures that would be necessary to transition a 
selected establishment to become a Federal establishment (e.g., 
changing the establishment number and replacing state personnel with 
FSIS inspection personnel) but that the Agency also explained it would 
collaborate with the States to implement specific transition procedures 
on a case-by-case basis. The comments stated that while this approach 
may be appropriate in dealing with individual establishments in a 
State, FSIS should develop specific procedures for instances when the 
State's agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment program is 
terminated.
    Response: As discussed above, under this final rule, establishments 
that are no longer eligible to participate in a cooperative interstate 
shipment because they are located in a State whose agreement for such a 
program was terminated will have the option to either revert back to 
the State MPI inspection program or obtain a Federal grant of 
inspection. Selected establishments that choose to operate under 
Federal inspection will need to transition to become a Federal 
establishment. FSIS will coordinate with the State where the 
establishment is located to develop and implement a plan for the 
establishment to obtain a Federal grant of inspection. Selected 
establishments that choose to revert to the State MPI program will need 
to obtain a State grant of inspection through the State in which they 
are located.

J. Federal Contribution, Technical Assistance, and Transition Grants

1. Federal Contribution 60% State Costs
    As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, the statute requires 
that the Federal contribution for inspection services provided by 
States that enter into an agreement for a cooperative interstate 
shipment program be at least 60% of eligible State costs. In the 
preamble, FSIS also explained that the Agency had tentatively concluded 
that eligible State costs are those costs that a State has justified 
and FSIS has approved as necessary for the State to provide inspection 
services to selected

[[Page 24741]]

establishments in the State (74 FR 47650). The Agency requested 
comments on whether it should codify this definition or any other 
requirements related to State reimbursement for eligible costs in the 
final rule.
    Comment: Comments submitted by both State Departments of 
Agriculture and consumer advocacy organizations stated that FSIS should 
codify requirements related to reimbursement of States for at least 60% 
of their eligible costs associated with the cooperative interstate 
shipment program. According to some comments, codifying these 
requirements would provide both States and FSIS personnel with 
consistent guidance on the level of reimbursement and requirements for 
receiving payment under the program. The comments also said that 
codifying the reimbursement requirements will prevent ad hoc 
interpretations and inequitable reimbursement policies over time.
    Some comments requested that FSIS more clearly define ``eligible 
costs.'' The comments specifically asked whether the following State 
costs would be considered eligible costs under the final rule: (1) 
Federal Indirect Cost Reimbursement to pay for office and 
administrative support services; (2) rent for computers, (3) 
administrative offices and field staff offices; and (4) fees associated 
with information technology and laboratory services.
    One comment supported the proposed definition of eligible State 
costs as those direct costs that a State has justified and FSIS has 
approved as necessary for the State to provide inspection services to 
selected establishments in the State. The comment argued that these are 
Federal taxpayer dollars that should be spent on Federal programs. The 
commenter stated that it understands that the law requires FSIS to 
reimburse States not less than 60% of eligible State costs but, 
according to the comment, such reimbursement should be confined to 
direct costs only. The comment asserted that costs that fall under 
Federal Indirect Cost Reimbursement definitions should not be included.
    Response: To be reimbursed for 60% of their eligible costs to 
administer the cooperative interstate shipment program, States will 
need to follow the same financial accountability and budget submission 
requirements needed to receive the maximum 50% Federal reimbursement 
under the cooperative State MPI program. These requirements include, 
but are not limited to, the administrative rules for Federal grants and 
cooperative agreements prescribed in USDA's Uniform Administrative 
Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local 
Governments regulations (7 CFR part 3016), as well as the principles 
provided in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) circular A-87 
``Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian and Tribal Governments'' 
(2 CFR Part 225); OMB circular A-102, ``Grants and Cooperative 
Agreements with State and Local Governments''; and OMB circular A-133, 
``Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations''.
    FSIS will only reimburse 60% of a State's costs to administer the 
cooperative interstate shipment program if the State can justify that 
the costs are necessary to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State and that the costs are allowable under the 
applicable Federal cost principles or other terms and conditions of the 
cooperative agreement. To make this clear, FSIS is codifying the 
definition of eligible State costs that it had tentatively decided on 
in the proposed rule. Thus, 9 CFR 321.3 and 381.187 of this final rule 
provide that for purposes of the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, eligible State costs are those costs that a State has 
justified and FSIS has approved as necessary for the State to provide 
inspection services to selected establishments in the State.
    The Federal requirements and procedures for the financial 
administration and operation of cooperative State agreements are 
described in FSIS Directive 3300.1 ``Fiscal Guidance for Cooperative 
Inspection Programs''. These requirements and procedures apply to all 
cooperative inspection program agreements, including agreements for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. FSIS will update directive 
3300.1 to specifically address the cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Comment: One comment asked whether a State's administrative costs 
to begin an interstate shipment program will be eligible for at least 
60% reimbursement from FSIS. The comment also asked whether there is 
anything in the program that would prohibit a State from charging an 
establishment a fee to participate in the program to help cover the 
State's additional costs. Another comment asked whether the final rule 
will require that States submit separate financial reports for 
inspection costs associated with the State MPI program and for costs 
associated with the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Response: As noted above, FSIS will only reimburse 60% of a State's 
costs to administer the cooperative interstate shipment, including the 
administrative costs to begin the program, if the State can justify 
that the costs are necessary to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State and that the costs are allowable under the 
applicable Federal cost principles or other terms and conditions of the 
cooperative agreement. The 2008 amendments to the Acts are silent on 
whether a State may charge an establishment a fee to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. The proposed rule provides 
that States are responsible for developing their own procedures for 
establishments to apply to be selected for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    The agreement between FSIS and a State for a cooperative interstate 
shipment program is separate from the cooperative State MPI agreement. 
Therefore, States that participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program will be required to submit separate financial reports 
for inspection costs associated with the State MPI program and for 
costs associated with the cooperative interstate shipment program. The 
States must also clearly document the time and cost that they spent to 
provide administrative support for the State MPI program versus the 
time and cost needed to provide administrative support for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Comment: Some comments supported the requirement that Federal 
reimbursement for the cooperative interstate shipment program be in an 
amount of not less than 60% of eligible State costs. The comments urged 
FSIS to provide more funding if, and when, the budget allows.
    One comment stated that in order for the program to succeed, it is 
critically important for FSIS, the Obama Administration, and Congress 
to commit sufficient resources to carry out the program. The comment 
stated that under no circumstances should FSIS be required to absorb 
these resources from its existing budget.
    One comment stated that the higher the Federal contribution, the 
more likely it is that State programs will be able to participate in 
the interstate shipment program. The comment encouraged FSIS to be 
creative in finding ways to increase the Federal contribution to the 
program. The comment noted that cash infusions are the best way to 
support the program, but that other contributions, such as equipment 
(including computers discussed above) and services (including training 
and

[[Page 24742]]

laboratory services), would also be helpful.
    Response: FSIS agrees that the success of the cooperative 
interstate shipment program will depend on the level of funding that 
Congress provides for the Agency to administer the program.
2. Technical Assistance and Outreach
    As required by the statute, FSIS established the Office of Outreach 
Employee Education and Training (OOEET) to provide ``outreach, 
education, and training to certain small and very small 
establishments'' and to provide ``grants to States to provide outreach, 
technical assistance, education, and training to certain small and very 
small establishments'' (21 U.S.C. 683(f)).
    In the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS explains that the Agency 
fulfilled this requirement by establishing the Office of Outreach 
Employee Education and Training (OOEET). OOEET is responsible for 
directing outreach, education, and training programs for FSIS to ensure 
public health and food safety through both inspection and enforcement 
activities. FSIS received several comments and suggestions on how OOEET 
should provide outreach and technical assistance to support the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. FSIS has included a general 
description of these comments below. However, OOEET's outreach and 
assistance activities were not specifically addressed in the proposed 
rule. Thus, these comments are outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    Comment: Some comments encouraged OOEET to work with other Federal 
agencies to assist establishments that are interested in participating 
in the cooperative interstate shipment program to acquire grants or 
loans to fund modifications that they may need to make to their 
facilities in order to comply with Federal standards. The comments 
noted that in the preamble to the proposed rule, FSIS estimated that 
establishments that need to make structural modifications or perform 
new construction could incur costs in the range of $15,000 to $30,000. 
The comments said that the States should not be expected to fund these 
costs.
    A few comments suggested that FSIS use USDA's ``Know Your Farmer, 
Know Your Food'' initiative to provide information about USDA grant and 
loan programs to help small and very small facilities upgrade their 
infrastructure.
    The consumer advocacy organization Food and Water Watch submitted 
identical comment letters on behalf of 5,083 private citizens. The 
comment letters supported FSIS's proposed regulation implementing the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. The comments also suggested 
that FSIS take a number of actions to ensure that the change to the new 
program goes smoothly and is feasible for States and small 
establishments.
    Three comments reference a report issued by Food and Water Watch 
entitled ``Where's the Local Beef?'' The comments stated that the 
report provides a number of recommendations that FSIS should consider 
for the technical assistance required under the statute. The comments 
encouraged FSIS to consider these recommendations.
    One comment stated that to ensure that States and establishments 
receive the assistance that they need to participate in the program, 
the Administration must budget, and Congress must appropriate, adequate 
funding for outreach and training activities. The comment said that, in 
particular, OOEET will need sufficient resources to conduct workshops, 
training sessions, and other activities to ensure that small and very 
small establishments in the new program understand the requirements 
they are expected to meet.
    Response: As noted above, the issues raised by these comments are 
outside the scope of this rulemaking. However, the Agency will take 
them into consideration when it implements this final rule.
3. Transition Grants
    Under the statute, FSIS is authorized to provide ``transition 
grants'' to States to assist the States in helping State-inspected 
establishments transition to selected establishments (21 U.S.C. 683(g) 
and 472(f)). In the proposed rule, FSIS explained that it has 
tentatively decided to define transition grants as funds that a State 
participating in a cooperative interstate shipment program must use to 
reimburse selected establishments in the State for the cost to train 
one individual in individual in HACCP requirements for meat and poultry 
products and associated training in the development of Sanitation SOPs.
    FSIS received several comments on the proposed definition of 
transition grants.
    Comment: Some comments supported FSIS' tentative conclusion to use 
its transition grant authority to reimburse States for the costs of 
HACCP training for establishment employees as an appropriate use of 
these funds. According to one comment, FSIS has already created a 
division to provide technical assistance for small and very small 
establishments, i.e., OOEET, so it is not necessary to provide 
transition grants to the States to use for duplicative outreach 
services.
    Other comments said that the proposed transition grant definition 
is too narrow, unnecessarily restrictive, and does not reflect the fact 
that training may be more urgently needed in other areas essential to 
food safety, such as microbiological sampling, process control, 
validation, determination of HACCP Critical Limits, or use of modern 
monitoring techniques. The comments suggested that FSIS revise the 
definition to allow the funds to be used to provide outreach, technical 
assistance, education, and training that establishments may need to 
become selected establishments and maintain this designation.
    Other comments stated that while HACCP training is an appropriate 
use of transition grants, it should not be the only use permitted for 
these funds. The comments asserted that transition grants could be used 
in some States for relevant state and local agencies to convene 
workshops and listening sessions on the application of local, State and 
Federal food safety regulations on small and very small processing 
establishments. The comments asserted that these workshops could 
generate approaches to improve and streamline food safety regulations, 
including HACCP requirements, to ensure that they are appropriate for 
achieving food safety standards in smaller facilities.
    A few comments stated that FSIS should permit transition grant 
funds to be used for tangible items, such as facility upgrades or other 
one-time start up costs for establishments to become eligible for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. One comment said that, if 
necessary FSIS could limit the amount it would provide to States to 
reimburse selected establishments to $5,000 per establishment, which 
was the Agency's estimated cost to train an individual in HACCP.
    Two comments submitted by animal welfare advocacy organizations 
stated that, in addition to HACCP training, FSIS should also allow 
States to use transitions grant funds to reimburse selected 
establishments for their costs to train personnel in humane handling 
and humane slaughter.
    Response: The comments indicate that there is a general lack of 
consensus on the appropriate use of transition grant funds. Therefore, 
because the comments offered no compelling reason to change it, FSIS is 
adopting the proposed definition of transition grant as funds that a 
State participating in a cooperative interstate shipment program must 
use to reimburse selected establishments in the State for the cost

[[Page 24743]]

to train one individual in HACCP requirements for meat and poultry 
products and associated training in the development of Sanitation SOPs.
    FSIS has very limited authority for and experience in administering 
grants for financial assistance outside the scope of cooperative 
inspection programs, and its food safety focus suggests that it would 
be of limited value for the Agency to gain such experience. Other USDA 
agencies, such as Rural Development and the National Institute for Food 
and Agriculture provide loans and grants of the kind that might be 
useful for establishments that may need to make modifications to their 
facilities to become eligible for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program. FSIS will coordinate with these other USDA agencies in 
developing and publicizing such programs, but will defer to them as 
USDA's loan and grant program specialists.
    A limited grants program to provide Federal funds to States so that 
they may reimburse selected establishments for HACCP training is, 
however, consistent with FSIS's authorities and capabilities. It will 
help to ensure that establishments that participate in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program are able to comply with Federal food safety 
standards. Limiting the use of transition grants to HACCP training for 
one individual will ensure that the costs associated with these grants 
are limited, predictable, and simple to monitor.
    Comment: One comment requested that FSIS provide more details on 
the transition grants. The comment noted that while funds from 
transition grants will be available to help establishments with the 
costs of training on HACCP and SSOPs, some establishments are likely to 
have already completed the necessary HACCP training. For those 
establishments, the comment asked whether States could use transition 
grant funds to reimburse the establishment's costs to send an employee 
to advanced HACCP training courses or to send another employee for 
training in basic HACCP and SSOPs. The comment also asked if the grant 
includes all costs associated with the training, from travel costs to 
the cost of registration or materials.
    Response: The proposed rule requires that States use transition 
grant funds to reimburse selected establishments for their costs to 
train one individual in HACCP requirements for meat and poultry 
products as required under 9 CFR 417.7 of the HACCP regulations and 
associated training in the development of Sanitation SOPs. These 
regulations require that the individual successfully complete a course 
of instruction in the application of the seven HACCP principles to meat 
or poultry product processing. Thus, transition grant funds may be used 
to reimburse the costs associated with the basic training required to 
comply with 9 CFR 417.7, which does not include advanced HACCP 
training. The transition grant would include any costs that the 
establishment can demonstrate were necessary to provide HACCP training 
to one individual.

K. Potential Benefits

    FSIS received several comments on the potential benefits of 
allowing small and very small State-inspected establishments to ship 
meat and poultry products in interstate commerce. Following is a 
general description of these comments categorized by potential benefit.
1. Expand Markets for Small Establishments
    Several comments said that allowing State-inspected products to 
ship meat and poultry products interstate will benefit small and very 
small State-inspected establishment by providing new markets for their 
products. The comments also stated that, as small processors expand 
their markets, consumers will also benefit from an increase in product 
choice.
2. Rural Development
    Some comments stated that, if implemented correctly, the 
cooperative interstate shipment program will provide opportunities for 
rural development. One comment said that a workable cooperative 
interstate shipment program will stimulate small business sales, expand 
rural development and jobs, and increase local tax bases, strengthening 
the stability of rural communities. Another comment noted that 
increasing the market opportunities for small processors is important 
to rural development because it will help to maintain and increase jobs 
in the rural areas where many of these small processors are located.
3. Small Farmers and Livestock Producers
    Several comments stated that allowing State-inspected processing 
plants to ship products interstate will benefit small farmers and local 
livestock and poultry producers by providing them with access to 
processing plants that can sell meat and poultry products across State 
lines. The comments noted that farmers rely on processing plants to 
sell their products to consumers, and that allowing interstate shipment 
of State-inspected products will help family farmers raising livestock 
and poultry, as well as small processing plants, to increase their 
access to larger markets.
    One commenter had conducted a survey of farmers across the country 
in spring 2009 to identify barriers to local food marketing. The 
comment noted that by far, the number one barrier mentioned was access 
to processing plants for meat, poultry, and value-added crops.
    Several comments said that, in addition to expanding markets for 
local livestock and poultry producers, allowing small State-inspected 
processing plants to ship products interstate will also benefit these 
local producers by reducing travel costs that many must incur to send 
their livestock to a federally-inspected establishment. One comment 
said that a producer in central Wyoming estimated that he could save 
almost $220,000 per year if he could have his animals processed locally 
in a state-inspected establishment. Some comments noted that many small 
livestock and poultry producers prefer to have their products processed 
in small State-inspected establishments, but that for some of these 
producers, the closest small processing establishment may be located 
across State lines.
    Some comments stated that the cooperative interstate shipment 
program could benefit cattle producers by increasing the demand for 
beef. The comment said that allowing state-inspected establishments to 
ship interstate will provide many smaller packing plants with an 
opportunity to expand into new markets. According to the comment, 
growth and new opportunities for these smaller plants means that they 
will have the opportunity to buy more cattle from producers. The 
comment asserted that this further demand for cattle will provide more 
competition in the market and will potentially provide more 
opportunities for cattlemen.
    One comment stated that the increased market opportunities for 
small processors will be passed on to livestock and poultry producers, 
which will lead to increased on-farm revenues.
    A few comments stated that the proposed cooperative interstate 
shipment program will offer independent family farmers and niche 
producers whose operations use humane and sustainable animal 
agricultural practices greater opportunity to market their products to 
a broader range of consumers. One comment believed that the proposed

[[Page 24744]]

rule has the potential to benefit small organic livestock operations. 
According to the comment, it is often difficult for these producers to 
find local slaughter or processing facilities.
    One comment stated that the proposed interstate shipment program 
has the potential to benefit not only family farmers but the animals 
they raise by reducing the stress associated with long transport times 
to slaughter.
    Some comments stated that the proposed rule will enhance the USDA's 
``Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food'' initiative by helping to break 
down structural barriers that have inhibited local food systems from 
thriving.
4. Protect Public Health
    One comment stated that the proposed program will protect public 
health by facilitating traceback of State-inspected products that may 
be the subject of a recall.
    Response: FSIS agrees that these comments all identify potential 
benefits associated with the cooperative interstate shipment program.

L. Interstate Shipment and Humane Handling of Livestock

    Comment: A few comments noted that the proposed rule did not 
mention the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). One comment 
stated that, while the FMIA incorporates the HMSA by reference, it is 
imperative that FSIS make clear in the final rule's codified text that 
establishments must be in compliance with the HMSA and all State humane 
handling requirements to be eligible for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    One comment stated that in May 2008, the commenter published a 
report on the enforcement of humane slaughter laws in the United 
States. The comment explained that the report included results from a 
series of public records requests that the commenter made to the 30 
States accredited to administer the Federal humane slaughter laws (the 
27 States with cooperative agreements for State MPI programs and 3 
States with cooperative programs for custom plants).
    Based on this report, the comment concluded that most states that 
operate meat inspection programs are not enforcing the HMSA at state-
inspected establishments. The comment said that small state-inspected 
establishments are probably less likely to have staff and management 
with training in humane handling and slaughter as Federal 
establishments, and that small state-inspected establishments are also 
probably less likely to have specialized equipment for proper animal 
handling or a facility design that promotes humane handling and 
slaughter.
    Response: To qualify for the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, establishments will need to comply with, and States will need 
to enforce, standards that are ``the same as'' those imposed under the 
Federal Acts and implementing regulations. As noted by the comments, 
the FMIA incorporates the HMSA by reference. Therefore, selected 
establishments must comply with, and participating States must enforce, 
humane handling procedures that are ``the same as'' those imposed under 
the HMSA and FSIS's implementing regulations.
    Because the FMIA incorporates the HMSA, it is not necessary to 
include additional requirements to implement the HMSA in the 
regulations implementing the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Comment: One comment suggested that as part of its outreach efforts 
to small and very small establishments, FSIS include training in the 
humane handling of livestock and poultry during slaughter and 
processing. One comment suggested that FSIS grade and identify 
establishments based on how humanely they raise their livestock.
    Response: These comments are outside the scope of the proposed 
rule.

M. Miscellaneous Comments

    Comment: A few comments noted that many small and very small 
establishments process bison, elk, and other species that are not 
amenable to the Federal Acts. The comments asked whether FSIS would 
address the processing of these species in the final rule implementing 
the cooperative interstate shipment program. One comment asked whether 
the final regulations will permit selected establishments to continue 
to slaughter non-amenable species under the State inspection program. 
The comment also asked whether the ``same as'' standard proposed for 
the cooperative interstate shipment program will affect State-inspected 
operations related to non-amenable species.
    Response: The cooperative interstate shipment program does not 
cover operations for the processing of bison, elk, and other species 
that are not amenable to the FMIA or PPIA. However, as discussed above, 
this final rule will allow State-inspected establishments to operate 
under both the State MPI program and the cooperative interstate 
shipment program. Under this final rule, selected establishments may 
continue to slaughter and process non-amenable species under the State 
inspection program as long as they maintain an appropriate separation 
of time or space between these operations and the operations conducted 
under the cooperative interstate shipment program. Because operations 
associated with non-amenable species are not eligible for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program, these operations are not 
affected by the ``same as'' standard required for the program.
    Comment: One comment stated that FSIS must make clear in the final 
rule that state-inspected horse slaughter facilities are not eligible 
to participate in the new cooperative interstate shipment program. The 
comment noted that currently there are no such facilities in operation 
in the United States, but expressed concern that providing certain 
state-inspected establishments access to the interstate market may 
encourage some small establishments to initiate new horse slaughter 
operations. The comment stated that Congress has made its intent clear 
that Federal funding must not be used to inspect such facilities, and 
FSIS must not allow establishments to use the cooperative interstate 
shipment program to circumvent the law.
    The comment also stated that any attempt by FSIS to regulate horse 
slaughter facilities must comply with the National Environmental Policy 
Act, 42 U.S.C. 4231 et seq., and cited Humane Society of the United 
States v. Johanns (520 F.Supp.2d 8 (D.D.C. 2007)) to support this 
statement. The comment asserted that unless FSIS makes clear that the 
final rule does not encompass horse slaughter, the Agency will need to 
prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment 
before finalizing the rule to avoid a potential violation of a federal 
court order.
    Response: As noted by the comment, the FY 2010 Agriculture, Rural 
Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies 
Appropriations Act prohibits the use of appropriated funds and user 
fees to pay the salaries of expenses of personnel to inspect horses 
prior to slaughter for human food (Pub. L. 111-80, Sec.  739). FSIS 
will comply with these and any future restrictions on the use of 
appropriated funds as it implements the cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
    Comment: One comment suggested that, when developing the final rule 
to implement the cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS should 
review its data on FSAs, NRs, suspensions, HACCP deviations, number of 
lab tests, and laboratory results to compare FSIS regulatory oversight 
of very small State-

[[Page 24745]]

inspected establishments with large and small establishments. According 
to the comment, this information may help identify specific areas of 
concern that the Agency should address in the final rule.
    Response: FSIS believes that this final rule provides the 
appropriate level of Federal oversight required under the 2008 
amendments to the Acts. The data identified by the comment will be 
useful to FSIS in overseeing the program.
    Comment: One comment asked whether the labels for products produced 
in establishments selected to participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program will be granted expedited review so that they can 
begin to operate under the new program more quickly. The comment also 
asked whether such labels would be approved by the FSIS Labeling and 
Program Delivery Division (LPDD). The comment stated that it would be 
disappointing if an establishment's ability to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program was delayed because of the 
label approval process.
    Response: The labels of meat and poultry products produced under 
the cooperative interstate shipment program will be subject to FSIS' 
prior label approval system to ensure that such labels comply with 
Federal labeling requirements. The SEC for the State where a selected 
establishment is located will coordinate with the State to facilitate 
the label submission process. The SEC will also verify that the labels 
applied to meat and poultry products produced under the cooperative 
interstate shipment program have been evaluated and approved by LPDD, 
except for generically approved labeling authorized for use in Title 9 
of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Sec. Sec.  317.5 and 381.133. 
Because the labels of meat and poultry products produced in selected 
establishments are required to bear a Federal mark, it is essential 
that these labels comply with all Federal labeling requirements.
    Comment: One comment requested that FSIS explain whether, under the 
final rule, E. coli O157:H7 would be considered an adulterant if 
detected on an intact muscle cut of beef. The comment asserted that if 
E. coli O157:H7 is only considered an adulterant if it is detected in a 
ground beef sample, selected establishments whose operations are 
limited to further processing will be subject to enforcement action, 
i.e., deselection, for upstream contamination over which they have no 
control.
    Two comments suggested that in the final rule, FSIS add a provision 
to ensure that selected establishments whose operations are limited to 
further processing are not subject to enforcement actions for product 
contamination that originated in an upstream slaughter facility.
    Response: These comments address issues associated with FSIS's 
existing policies with respect to E. coli O157:H7. They are outside the 
scope of this rulemaking.
    Comment: One comment stated that processors and regulatory staff 
have been trained to recognize ``shall'' as an indication of mandatory 
requirements. The comment inserted suggested revisions to the proposed 
codified text, such as replacing ``will'' with ``shall.'' According to 
the comment, the suggested revisions are needed to make clear which 
provisions of the regulations are mandatory.
    Response: This is the only comment to make these suggested 
revisions. FSIS believes that the language in the codified text clearly 
articulates the requirements associated with the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    Comment: One comment noted that throughout the proposed regulations 
FSIS uses the terms such as ``in compliance with the Acts'' or 
``consistent with the Acts.'' The comment stated that since State meat 
and poultry inspection programs already comply with the FMIA and PPIA, 
FSIS needs to make clear that most references to ``the Act'' in the 
proposed regulation are intended to refer to the new legislation, i. 
e., Title V of these Acts. According to the comment, Section 11015 of 
the 2008 Farm Bill did not amend the existing sections of FMIA and 
PPIA, but rather created a new section in each of these Acts. The 
comment suggested that FSIS revise ``in compliance with the Acts'' to 
``in compliance with this Act'' to make this clear.
    Response: In the final codified text, ``this Act'' was changed to 
``this chapter.'' As used in the statutes, ``this chapter'' means the 
FMIA and PPIA, not section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill (see 21 U.S.C.A. 
683 and 472, Historical and Statutory Notes, References in Text). Thus, 
the terms ``in compliance with the Acts'' or ``consistent with the 
Acts'' better reflect the intent of the statutes than ``in compliance 
with this Act'' meaning section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill.
Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act
    This final rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12866. It 
has been determined to be significant, but not economically significant 
for purposes of E.O. 12866 and, therefore, has been reviewed by the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
    Currently, 27 States administer cooperative State meat or poultry 
inspection (MPI) programs. These States have approximately 1,873 
establishments that would be eligible to apply for selection into the 
new cooperative interstate shipment program. However, because 
participation in the new program is voluntary, FSIS will not know how 
many States and establishments will apply to participate until this 
final rule becomes effective and establishments are selected for the 
program.
    In the proposed rule's Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis 
(PRIA), FSIS explained that information obtained through the Agency's 
outreach activities indicated that, as of July 2008, about 170 
establishments in sixteen States had approached the State MPI programs 
to express interest in the new cooperative interstate shipment program. 
These sixteen States have in total 1,133 establishments that could 
potentially be eligible for the new program. However, more recent 
Agency outreach activities conducted after the proposed rule was 
published indicate that there now may be only four States interested in 
participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program.\3\ The 
four States that have recently expressed interest in the program are 
North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Vermont. According to the State 
Directors of these four States, the total number of establishments in 
these States that might participate is between 27 and 102, and the 
actual number will depend on the language of the final rule. This 
finding is consistent with information provided in the public comments 
submitted in response to the proposed rule that indicated that the 
participation number we estimated in the proposed rule was too high. 
Therefore, we have adjusted the budget impact downward by incorporating 
the new information.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ These four States have each signed an agreement with the 
Agency to conduct a comparative analysis to determine what the 
States would need to do to meet the ``same as'' requirements for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. FSIS provided funds for the 
States to conduct the assessment.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Expected Benefits of the Proposed Action
    State-inspected establishments selected to participate in the new 
cooperative interstate shipment program will be permitted to ship and 
sell their meat and poultry products in interstate and foreign 
commerce. Thus, this final

[[Page 24746]]

rule will benefit these establishments by opening new markets for their 
products.
    This final rule will also benefit consumers by generating more 
product choices, as more products can be shipped to new markets. In 
addition, requiring that products produced under the cooperative 
interstate shipment program bear a Federal inspection legend that 
includes an official State selected establishment inspection number 
will allow consumers to identify that these products were produced 
under the cooperative interstate shipment program if such products are 
ever the subject of an investigation or recall.
    States that participate in the program will benefit because the law 
requires that FSIS reimburse them for at least 60% of their eligible 
costs related to inspection of selected establishments in the State. 
FSIS provides up to 50% of the costs to provide inspection under the 
existing cooperative State MPI programs. States are likely to benefit 
from the 10% increase in reimbursement for the cooperative interstate 
shipment program because, as explained below, for many States, the 
costs to administer the new program are not expected to greatly exceed 
the costs to administer the State MPI programs.
    The Agency received several comments that identified additional 
potential benefits of allowing small and very small State-inspected 
establishments to ship meat and poultry products in interstate 
commerce. These benefits include:
    1. Rural development: Allowing certain small and very small State-
inspected establishments to ship their products across State lines may 
stimulate small business sales, expand rural development and jobs, and 
increase local tax bases, strengthening the stability of rural 
communities, where many of these small establishments are located.
    2. Benefits for small farmers and livestock producers: Allowing 
State-inspected processing plants to ship products in interstate 
commerce will benefit small farmers and local livestock and poultry 
producers by providing them with access to processing plants that can 
sell meat and poultry products across State lines. It will also benefit 
local producers by reducing travel costs that many must incur to send 
their livestock to a federally-inspected establishment, as the closest 
small processing establishment may be located across State lines.
Expected Costs of the Proposed Action
    1. Costs to the participating establishments. To be eligible to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program, a State-
inspected establishment must be in compliance with: (1) The State-
inspection program of the State in which the establishment is located 
and (2) the FMIA or PPIA, and their implementing regulations. Before 
State-inspected establishments can be selected to participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program, they will need to apply for 
selection into the program and demonstrate that they comply with both 
State and Federal requirements.
    Thus, an establishment that chooses to apply for selection into the 
program will incur one-time start-up costs associated with filing an 
application, training employees, meeting regulatory performance 
standards, obtaining label approval, and implementing a food safety 
system that complies with all Federal requirements (e.g. Sanitation SOP 
and HACCP requirements).
    In addition, to qualify for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program, some State-inspection establishments may need to invest in 
structural modifications to their facilities in order to comply with 
Federal standards. Based on information obtained through FSIS' outreach 
activities with the States in 2008, in the PRIA of the proposed rule, 
the Agency estimated that the cost for State-inspected establishments 
to fully comply with Federal standards, as required by the law, will 
range from $1,500 to $50,000. FSIS did not receive any comments or new 
information in response to the proposed rule to suggest changes to 
these estimates.
    According to most State Directors, the cost to very small 
establishments that do not need to make structural modifications to 
their facilities is likely to be in the range of $5,000 to $10,000. If 
the establishments need to make structural modifications or perform new 
construction, the estimated range would be about $15,000 to $30,000.\4\ 
However, because the cooperative interstate shipment program is a 
voluntary program, establishments that choose to incur the costs 
associated with participating in the program will most likely do so 
because they anticipate that such participation will provide an overall 
net benefit for them.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ Note that under this final rule, establishments selected for 
the program will be eligible to be reimbursed the cost to train one 
employee in HACCP and Sanitation SOPs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Looking at the potential for the establishments to experience new 
(incremental) burden or expenses due to State inspection under the 
proposed cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS believes that 
there will be essentially no change. FSIS is aware that the cooperative 
State MPI programs are not identical to the Federal inspection program. 
FSIS anticipates that States may need to modify their existing 
inspection procedures when providing inspection services to selected 
establishment in the State to ensure that these establishments receive 
inspection services that are ``the same as'' those required under the 
Federal program. However, since the State programs are required to be 
``at least equal to'' the Federal inspection programs now, FSIS 
anticipates that changes that States will need to make to provide 
inspection to selected establishments will largely be procedural, and 
there will not be any particular increase or decrease in overall State 
effort that would change the burden of the inspection regimen on the 
establishments.
    2. Costs to the participating States. States that choose to 
participate in the program will be required to pay 40 percent of the 
eligible costs related to inspection of establishments in the State 
that are selected for the program. Under the current cooperative 
program, the States are paying 50 percent of the eligible inspection 
costs. Although the inspection costs under the new program may be 
different from the costs under the existing program, the States' share 
of 40 percent or less is unlikely to be higher than its current share.
    One area the States will have to address is the laboratory services 
that they will be using to analyze samples collected under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. To demonstrate that the 
laboratory services used by a State are sufficient for the State to 
qualify for the cooperative interstate shipment program, the State will 
need to show that the laboratory is accredited by an internationally 
recognized organization that accredits food testing laboratories 
against the ISO 17025 ``General requirements for the competence of 
testing and calibration laboratories'' and AOAC ``Guidelines for 
Laboratories Performing Food Microbiological and Chemical Analyses of 
Food and Pharmaceuticals Testing'' written by the Analytical Laboratory 
Accreditation Criteria Committee (ALACC). The assessment body that FSIS 
uses, the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), is 
the sole organization that incorporates ALACC into their program 
requirements. State labs would need to use A2LA or another accrediting 
body that incorporates ALACC and is a signatory and in good standing to 
the Mutual Recognition Arrangements of

[[Page 24747]]

the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).
    Currently three State labs are ISO 17025 accredited--Minnesota, 
North Carolina, and Florida (FL does not have a State MPI program), 
four States are actively seeking ISO 17025 accreditation--Ohio, 
Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Vermont, and four States use commercial 
labs that are ISO accredited.
    States that use laboratories that do not use the methods described 
in FSIS's Laboratory Guidebooks may incur costs to adopt such methods 
to analyze samples under the cooperative interstate shipment program. 
If a test or product described in the FSIS Guidebook is not 
commercially available, FSIS will assist the laboratory in developing 
an appropriate alternative method.
    To assist the States in developing laboratory services that are 
``the same as'' those provided under the Federal inspection program, 
FSIS is adopting a ``phased in'' approach for the States to become ISO 
17025 accredited. FSIS's Office of Public Health Science (OPHS) intends 
to provide advice and answer questions from State labs as they seek ISO 
accreditation. FSIS estimates the cost for a State lab to obtain the 
necessary accreditation to be ``the same as'' to be somewhere between 
$28,000 and $350,000. These costs reflect the costs associated with 
purchasing additional equipment, hiring additional staff (QC manager 
for Chemistry, QC manager for Microbiology, Document Control Clerk, and 
additional analysts,) the initial application fee to apply for ISO 
17025 accreditation, the annual fee to maintain accreditation, and the 
accrediting body's assessment fee.
    States that choose to participate in the interstate shipment 
program may need to make certain modifications to their State 
inspection programs to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments in a manner that is ``the same as'' the Federal 
inspection program. However, most States that have implemented State 
meat and poultry products inspection (MPI) programs have incorporated 
the Federal requirements into their programs.\5\ Thus, State costs to 
train State personnel are likely to be minimal because many State 
personnel have received training in Federal inspection methodology as 
part of the State MPI program. In addition, as noted above, FSIS offers 
training courses in Federal inspection methodology to State inspection 
personnel. FSIS's OOEET will coordinate with States participating in 
the cooperative interstate shipment program to provide the necessary 
training for designated State personnel.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ Based on Agency's most recent (FY 2009) review of the 27 
States' self-assessment reports (including the State Laboratory 
Activity Tables) by the Federal State Audit Branch, Internal Control 
and Audit Division of the Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement, 
and Review.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    States may incur some costs associated with the processing and 
evaluation of applications submitted by establishments requesting to be 
selected for the cooperative interstate shipment program. However, 
because the States will develop their own application procedures, FSIS 
is unable to estimate these costs with any certainty.
    FSIS anticipates that States may need to revise their State 
inspection procedures when providing inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State to ensure that these inspection services 
are ``the same as'' those provided under the Federal program. However, 
since the cooperative State MPI programs are required to be ``at least 
equal'' to the Federal inspection programs now, FSIS anticipates that 
changes will largely be procedural, and there will not be any 
particular increase or decrease in overall State effort or cost. FSIS 
has no basis on which to assume anything else.
Expected FSIS Budgetary Effects
    The new cooperative interstate shipment program that we are 
implementing in this final rule is expected to have budgetary effects 
on FSIS. This section discusses the baseline costs and activities, 
i.e., what is happening now before the cooperative interstate shipment 
program option is available, and then lays out the incremental effects 
on FSIS. The PRIA in the proposed rule presented a baseline scenario 
outlining the Agency's spending for the Federal-State cooperative 
inspection programs for FY 2009 through 2014 in case the cooperative 
interstate shipment program option is not enacted (see table below).\6\ 
We did not receive any data or comment in response to the proposed rule 
to suggest changes to these numbers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ For details, including assumptions, for the baseline 
scenario, please see the proposed rule ``Cooperative Inspection 
Programs: Interstate Shipment of Meat and Poultry Products,'' 
September 16, 2009, 74 FR 47658-47659.

                        Table 1--Baseline: Cost Federal State Coop Program With No Change
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        2010                                                           Total 5-
   FSIS level costs, fiscal year      (Budget)       2011         2012         2013         2014         year
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FSIS costs........................        $15.3        $15.9        $16.5        $17.1        $17.8        $82.5
Reimburs. to States...............         50.3         52.1         54.1         56.2         58.4        271.1
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total.........................         65.7         68.0         70.5         73.3         76.1        353.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FSIS Staff Years..................           29           29           29           29           29  ...........
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Federal reimbursement.............        $50.3        $52.1        $54.1        $56.2        $58.4       $271.1
State program spending............         50.3         52.1         54.1         56.2         58.4        271.1
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total MPI program.............        100.7        104.2        108.1        112.4        116.7        542.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Number of plants..................        1,873        1,873        1,873        1,873        1,873  ...........
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Economic Assumptions from OMB for the 2010 Budget
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
State & Local Exp, %..............          3.1          3.5          3.8          3.9          3.9  ...........
FSIS Civilian pay, %..............          5.1          4.1          4.1          4.1          4.1  ...........
Non-Pay Expenditure, %............          0.8          1.2          1.4          1.6          1.6  ...........
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 24748]]

Interstate Scenario
    To evaluate this scenario, we must estimate the number of 
establishments and States that will seek to participate and be selected 
for the new cooperative interstate shipment program. Then we will 
discuss the likely incremental changes in activity that could 
reasonably suggest any changes in cost or burden for FSIS, the States, 
or establishments.
    As noted above, in the proposed rule, through its outreach 
activities, FSIS had identified sixteen States that expressed an 
interest in the new cooperative interstate shipment program. These 
States have a total of 1,133 establishments that could potentially be 
eligible for the new program. Because participation in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program is voluntary, the Agency could not estimate 
with certainty the number of eligible establishments that will choose 
to participate. Therefore, in the proposed rule, for illustration 
purposes, the Agency estimated the costs for three scenarios: 200, 400 
and 600 establishments.
    However, comments received in response to the proposed rule 
suggested that the Agency overestimated both the number of States and 
establishments that were interested in participating in the program. 
The most recent Agency outreach activities confirmed this assertion. As 
of November 2010, only four States (North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and 
Vermont) expressed interest in participating and, according to the 
State Directors, about 27 to 102 establishments may apply for selection 
into the program through these four States. Therefore, we revised the 
three scenarios to be (1) 27 establishments in four States 
participating from FY 2011 through 2014, (2) 102 establishments from 
four States from FY 2011 through 2014, and (3) 102 establishments from 
4 States in FY 2011, then the participation increases to 200 
establishments from all 27 eligible States in FY 2012 through 2014. The 
Agency understands that there are many other possible scenarios. 
Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine with any certainty which 
scenarios are more likely to occur than others; and the farther out (in 
terms of fiscal years) the projection, the greater the uncertainty. 
These three scenarios are for illustration purposes only as the number 
of participating States and establishments can go up or down depending 
on the perception of the final rule, the experience of the program once 
it starts, and other socio-economic factors.
    We started with the change in Federal costs for the program caused 
by the new statutory reimbursement level. For the cooperative 
interstate shipment program the law requires that FSIS reimburse States 
for their eligible costs related to the inspection of selected 
establishments in the State in an amount not less than 60 percent of 
eligible State costs. Under the existing law, FSIS may reimburse a 
State for up to 50 percent of eligible State costs to administer and 
enforce the cooperative State MPI. This analysis projects the effects 
of the different reimbursement rate on FSIS fiscal requirements 
assuming no change in State level activity over the baseline. FSIS 
assumes that States will not change their level of activity associated 
with selected establishments in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program as discussed above.
    To calculate this figure, FSIS estimated average per establishment 
spending for the cooperative interstate shipment program for the 
establishments in four States. For FY 2011, the estimated additional 
State reimbursement for inspection of an establishment selected for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program compared to the reimbursement 
for an establishment operating under the cooperative State MPI program, 
is $12,415 (per establishment)in North Dakota, $5,283 in Ohio, $16,123 
in Wisconsin, and $3,314 in Vermont.\7\ This and analogous figures are 
reflected in the tables below in the ``Total grants to States'' line 
for the 27, 102, and 102-200 establishment scenarios.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ For methodology of calculating this please see 74 FR 47659-
47660.
    To summarize, for each State we took the allocation for FY 2010 
under the cooperative State MPI program, divided by the number of 
establishments, and then multiplied it by 1.2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Under section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill, FSIS is required to 
oversee the inspection activities of State personnel designated to 
provide inspection to selected establishments in the State. FSIS will 
incur costs associated with providing the necessary oversight. FSIS 
also expects to incur new costs for outreach and training. This will 
result in increased demand for FSIS staff and resources. In summary, 
this includes state coordinators, Deputy District Managers (DDM), 
outreach and training staff, and lab analysts to certify State 
laboratories, transition grants to hone establishment staff skills with 
HACCP and SOPs, and associated operating expenses and travel expenses.
    The statute requires FSIS to appoint a Federal employee to be a 
State Coordinator. As explained earlier in this document, the State 
Coordinator prescribed by the statute is referred to as the ``selected 
establishment coordinator'' (SEC) in this proposed rule. The SEC is 
required by statute to visit selected establishments with a frequency 
that is appropriate to ensure that such establishments are operating in 
a manner that is consistent with the FMIA and PPIA, including 
regulations and policies there under and to: (1) Provide oversight and 
enforcement of the program, and (2) oversee the training and inspection 
activities of State-personnel designated to provide inspection services 
to the selected establishments. SECs will further provide quarterly 
reports on each selected establishment under his or her jurisdiction to 
document their level of compliance with the requirements of the Acts.
    We estimate that 2 to 3 full-time equivalent FSIS employees will be 
able to perform the SEC functions for the 4 States interested in 
participating in the cooperative interstate shipment program. It is 
expected that early in the program the SEC time will initially focus on 
outreach and start-up activities (including establishment selection) 
and shift over until it is more completely the oversight activities 
stipulated in the Acts.
    In the start-up period, in addition to SEC outreach efforts, FSIS 
expects to incur costs for outreach and training, and administration 
from OOEET for the small and very small establishments that are 
considering the cooperative interstate shipment program, that decide to 
apply for the program, and for those who are selected to participate in 
the program. OOEET will conduct face-to-face workshops in every State 
to provide information to establishment owners and operators about the 
requirements of the new cooperative interstate shipment program. These 
workshops will not only educate the interested owners and operators 
about the requirements, they will also help them meet the requirements. 
This allocation will cover the cost of developing, printing, and 
shipping the workshop materials, as well as the cost of traveling 
Agency personnel to conduct the workshops, and the cost of meeting 
space. The cost is reflected in the tables below in the ``Training/
Outreach'' line. The reason these costs do not change between the 
scenarios of 27 and 102 is because the information will be provided in 
a classroom. Costs are expected to be largely the same whether 
attendance is high or low. Also, note that these costs drop sharply for 
each subsequent year as the cooperative interstate shipment program 
specific effort changes to operating training for establishments 
selected to participate in the program.

[[Page 24749]]

    In the start-up period, transition grant authority under 9 CFR 
332.12 and 9 CFR 381.522 will be used to provide States funds to 
reimburse selected establishments in the State for their costs to train 
one individual in HACCP and associated training in Sanitation SOP 
requirements. The Agency estimates that the cost of training each 
establishment specialist will average about $5,000, including staff 
time and travel necessary for the training. Since this is a new expense 
necessary to implement the cooperative interstate shipment program and 
since statute authorizes it without State matching funds, these costs 
will be entirely new costs for FSIS that are part of ``Total grants to 
States'' in Table 2 below. This training will only be needed in the 
start-up period and, accordingly, appears only in FY 2011 in Table 2 
for all three scenarios, and again in FY 2012 in the 102-200 
establishments scenario when more establishments participate.
    SECs are likely to be supervised by Deputy District Managers (DDMs) 
at the equivalent of about 1 DDM per 300 establishments. This is 
similar to the ratio of DDM effort used to manage frontline FSIS 
supervisors in the Federal programs. For the four States scenario, 
though, since the numbers of establishments are less than 300, there 
will be one DDM. This is reflected in the ``DDM'' line of the tables 
below.
    FSIS estimates that two laboratory staff will be needed to complete 
periodic audits of the State inspection program laboratory systems and 
otherwise coordinate with the laboratories to ensure the sampling and 
testing programs are ``the same as'' the Federal program. We anticipate 
that the program needs two lab staff regardless of how many 
establishments eventually participate because most of the labs 
typically have a chemistry residue program and a microbiology program. 
This is reflected in the ``Lab staff'' line of the tables below.
    Travel costs are included on the ``Travel--SC & lab staff'' line in 
the tables below. The SECs will need to travel a fair amount to 
complete their duties and the lab staff will need to travel some. 
Travel for SECs and lab staff starts in FY 2011.
    As noted above, early in the program the SEC's duties will 
initially focus on outreach and start-up activities and later will 
shift to the oversight activities stipulated in the Acts. Thus, we 
project about $6,150 for travel for each SEC in the first year and 
$6,300 per year for subsequent years.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ The PRIA stated that the estimated travel cost per SEC's in 
subsequent years would be $630. This was a technical error and 
should have read $6,300.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For the lab staff we based our trips to the State program 
laboratories on one audit of each laboratory to make an initial 
assessment, so that would be one trip to the labs for each of the 4 
States. Because most of the labs typically have a chemistry residue 
program and a microbiology program, two lab-auditors will go on each 
trip--one chemist and one microbiologist. These labs would also need a 
follow-up the next year and then we would make a judgment as to whether 
there needed to be annual visits after that. We based the number of 
audits on the figures that we had regarding the number of States that 
will participate. Each trip ran about $1,500 for each auditor.
    Finally, there are the normal operating expenses associated with 
field operations including office space, communications costs, 
information technology costs (such as laptop computers), other 
equipment, and office supplies. FSIS estimates $3,500 per new staff for 
laptop, LincPass, and Black Berries. These costs are generally stable 
over time, although they inflate and, of course, are a little higher in 
the start-up year. These costs are found in the ``Equipment and admin'' 
line of the tables below.
    Table 2, below, summarizes the incremental costs to FSIS to operate 
the new cooperative interstate shipment program in the three scenarios: 
27, 102 and 102-to-200 establishments.

          Table 2--Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program Cost Estimates--Three Scenarios ($ Millions)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Fiscal year                        2011         2012         2013         2014        4-Year
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            Interstate Program--Summary of Incremental Cost Estimates
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Costs if 27 establishments.....................         1.09         0.95         0.83         0.87         3.74
Costs if 102 establishments....................         1.94         1.43         1.34         1.40         6.11
Costs if 102, then 200 establishments..........         1.94         4.22         4.40         4.58        15.14
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Interstate Program with 27 Establishments
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Number of establishments.......................           27           27           27           27  ...........
Total grants to States *.......................         0.28         0.15         0.15         0.16  ...........
Total salaries & benefits......................         0.51         0.53         0.55         0.58  ...........
DDM............................................         0.09         0.10         0.10         0.11  ...........
State coordinator (SC).........................         0.16         0.17         0.17         0.18  ...........
Lab staff......................................         0.25         0.26         0.27         0.29  ...........
Operating expenses.............................         0.31         0.26         0.12         0.12  ...........
Travel-SC & lab staff..........................         0.02         0.02         0.03         0.03  ...........
Training/Outreach..............................         0.21         0.19         0.04         0.04  ...........
Equipment and admin............................         0.07         0.07         0.07         0.07  ...........
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Total......................................         1.09         0.95         0.83         0.87         3.74
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Interstate Program with 102 Establishments
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Number of establishments.......................          102          102          102          102  ...........
Total grants to States *.......................         0.99         0.50         0.52         0.54  ...........
Total salaries & benefits......................         0.59         0.61         0.63         0.67  ...........
DDM............................................         0.09         0.10         0.10         0.11  ...........
State coordinator (SC).........................         0.24         0.25         0.26         0.27  ...........
Lab staff......................................         0.25         0.26         0.27         0.29  ...........

[[Page 24750]]

 
Operating expenses.............................         0.36         0.30         0.18         0.18  ...........
Travel-SC & lab staff..........................         0.03          0.3         0.03         0.03  ...........
Training/Outreach..............................         0.21         0.19         0.05         0.05  ...........
Equipment and admin............................         0.12         0.11         0.11         0.11  ...........
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Total......................................         1.94         1.43         1.34         1.40         6.11
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                              Interstate Program with 102, then 200 Establishments
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Number of establishments.......................          102          200          200          200  ...........
Total grants to States *.......................         0.99         1.64         1.20         1.25  ...........
Total salaries & benefits......................         0.59         2.25         2.35         2.45  ...........
DDM............................................         0.09         0.16         0.17         0.18  ...........
State coordinator (SC).........................         0.24         1.83         1.91         1.98  ...........
Lab staff......................................         0.25         0.26         0.27         0.29  ...........
Operating expenses.............................         0.36         0.82         0.85         0.89  ...........
Travel-SC & lab staff..........................         0.03         0.09         0.10         0.10  ...........
Training/Outreach..............................         0.21         1.40         1.12         0.35  ...........
Equipment and admin............................         0.12         0.36         0.38         0.39  ...........
                                                ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Total......................................         1.94         4.22         4.40         4.58        15.14
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Note ``Total grants to States'' includes funding for Transition Grants to help establishments train one person
  in HACCP and SOPs per Sec.   332.12 and Sec.   381.522.

Effect on Small Entities--Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    Pursuant to section 605(b) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 
U.S.C. 605(b), the FSIS Administrator certifies that this rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. This certification is based primarily on the fact that (1) 
the program is voluntary, and (2) the rule will benefit very small and 
certain small establishments that operate under cooperative State MPI 
programs. Based on FSIS's HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control 
Points) size definitions, very small establishments have fewer than 10 
employees or generate less than $2.5 million in annual sales; small 
establishments have 10 or more but fewer than 500 employees and 
generate more than $2.5 million in annual sales; and establishments 
having 500 or more employees are large establishments. Thus, very small 
State-inspected establishments and small State-inspected establishments 
that have fewer than 25 employees on average will be eligible to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program.
    This final rule will benefit very small and certain small 
establishments that operate under cooperative State MPI programs. Under 
section 11015, State-inspected establishments that employ on average 25 
or fewer employees would be permitted to be selected to participate in 
a cooperative interstate shipment program. The law also permits the 
Secretary to select State-inspected establishments that employ, on 
average, more than 25 but less than 35 employees to participate in the 
program. However, to remain in the program, these establishments must 
employ, on average, 25 or fewer employees three years after the 
regulations implementing the new cooperative interstate shipment 
program become effective. FSIS provides for the selection of State-
inspected establishments that employ, on average, more than 25 but 
fewer than 35 employees in the implementing regulations. Thus, this 
rule will benefit these very small and small State-inspected 
establishments by allowing them to ship meat and poultry products in 
interstate and foreign commerce, thereby opening new markets for their 
products.
    Currently, 27 States administer cooperative State meat or poultry 
inspection (MPI) programs. These States have approximately 1,873 
establishments that would be eligible to apply for selection into the 
new cooperative interstate shipment program. As mentioned earlier in 
the preamble to this final rule, the Agency's most recent outreach 
activities indicate that four States may be interested in participating 
in the program and the number of establishments in these States that 
might participate is between 27 and 102. However, because participation 
in the new program is voluntary, FSIS will not know how many States and 
establishments will apply to participate until this final rule becomes 
effective and establishments are selected for the program.
    As discussed above, costs to the participating establishments are 
likely to be small. An establishment that chooses to apply for 
selection into the program will incur one-time start-up costs 
associated with filing an application, training employees, meeting 
regulatory performance standards, obtaining label approval, and 
implementing a food safety system that complies with all Federal 
requirements (e.g. Sanitation SOP and HACCP requirements). In addition, 
to qualify for a cooperative interstate shipment program, some State-
inspection establishments may need to invest in structural 
modifications to their facilities in order to comply with Federal 
standards. Based on information obtained through FSIS' outreach 
activities with the States in 2008, in the PRIA of the proposed rule, 
the Agency estimated that the cost for State-inspected establishments 
to fully comply with Federal standards, as required by the law, will 
range from $1,500 to $50,000. Looking at the potential for the 
establishments to experience new (incremental) burden or expenses due 
to State inspection under the proposed cooperative interstate shipment 
program, FSIS believes that there will be essentially no change. FSIS 
did not receive any comments or new information in response to the 
proposed rule to suggest changes to these estimates.
    Because the cooperative interstate shipment program is a voluntary

[[Page 24751]]

program, establishments that choose to incur the costs associated with 
participating in the program will most likely do so because they 
anticipate that such participation will provide an overall net benefit 
for them.
Executive Order 12988
    This final rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, 
Civil Justice Reform. This rule: (1) Preempts State and local laws and 
regulations that are inconsistent with this rule; (2) has no 
retroactive effect; and (3) does not require administrative proceedings 
before parties may file suit in court challenging this rule.
E-Government Act
    FSIS and USDA are committed to achieving the purposes of the E-
Government Act (44 U.S.C. 3601, et seq.) by, among other things, 
promoting the use of the Internet and other information technologies 
and providing increased opportunities for citizen access to government 
information and services, and for other purposes.
Executive Order 13175
    This final rule has been carefully evaluated for potential tribal 
implications in accordance with Executive Order 13175, ``Consultation 
and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments.'' FSIS has concluded 
based on its evaluation that this final rule will not have any direct 
or substantial effects on Indian Tribes, on the relationship between 
the Federal Government and Indian Tribes, or on the distribution of 
power or responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian 
Tribes. This final rule implements the Congressional enactment 
providing that States with approved MPI programs, that is State 
established and administered meat or poultry inspection programs, 
approved by FSIS pursuant to the Federal meat and poultry inspection 
laws, may now be eligible in their discretion to participate in the 
cooperative interstate shipment program established by this final rule. 
Accordingly, because this program is only authorized under law and this 
rule is for States with approved MPI programs, there are no significant 
tribal implications. Nonetheless, FSIS will include Tribes and 
intertribal organizations, involved in or interested in the meat and 
poultry sectors, in the Agency's outreach efforts associated with 
implementation and administration of this final rule. In addition, if 
and when a State, with an MPI program approved by FSIS, satisfies the 
requirements of this final rule and enters into an agreement with FSIS 
regarding a cooperative interstate shipment program, FSIS will conduct 
outreach to Tribes and intertribal organizations to ensure that they 
are fully aware of the cooperative interstate shipment program in that 
State, and to ensure that meat or poultry establishments on Tribal 
lands have the opportunity to participate in the approved State 
interstate shipment program if they are interested in doing so.
USDA Nondiscrimination Statement
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination 
in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, 
national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, 
sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited 
bases apply to all programs.)
    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for 
communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, 
etc.) should contact USDA's Target Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and 
TTY).
    To file a written complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Office 
of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, 
SW., Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice and TTY). 
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Additional Public Notification
    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to ensure that the 
public and in particular minorities, women, and persons with 
disabilities, are aware of this final rule, FSIS will announce it on-
line through the FSIS Web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations/2011_Interim_&_Final_Rules_Index.
    FSIS also will make copies of this Federal Register publication 
available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide 
information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal 
Register notices, FSIS public meetings, and other types of information 
that could affect or would be of interest to our constituents and 
stakeholders. The Update is communicated via Listserv, a free e-mail 
subscription service consisting of industry, trade, and farm groups, 
consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, scientific 
professionals, and other individuals who have requested to be included. 
The Update also is available on the FSIS Web page. Through Listserv and 
the Web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a much broader, 
more diverse audience.
    In addition, FSIS offers an e-mail subscription service which 
provides automatic and customized access to selected food safety news 
and information. This service is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_&_events/email_subscription/. Options range from recalls to 
export information to regulations, directives and notices. Customers 
can add or delete subscriptions themselves, and have the option to 
password protect their accounts.
Paperwork Reduction Act
    In accordance with section 3507(d) of the Paperwork Reduction Act 
of 1995, the information collection and recordkeeping requirements 
included in this rule were submitted for approval to the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) when the proposed rule was published. OMB 
preapproved the information collection; the OMB Control number is 0583-
0144.
    The estimated number of respondents in the preapproved information 
collection reflects the number of States and establishments that FSIS 
estimated would participate in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program when the Agency issued the proposed rule. FSIS believes that it 
overestimated the participation by States and establishments in the 
proposed rule. However, the Agency's final estimated hours of paperwork 
burden per respondent is the same as the estimate provided in the 
proposed rule.
    Title: ``Cooperative Inspection Programs: Interstate Shipment of 
Meat and Poultry Products.''
    Type of collection: New.
    Abstract: FSIS has reviewed the paperwork and recordkeeping 
requirements in this final rule in accordance with the Paperwork 
Reduction Act. Under this final rule, FSIS is requiring certain 
information collection and recordkeeping activities.
    States that are interested in participating in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program are required to submit a request for an 
agreement to establish such a program through the appropriate FSIS 
District Office. In their requests, States must: (1) Identify 
establishments in the State that the State recommends for initial 
selection into the program, if any; (2) include documentation to 
demonstrate that the State is able to provide necessary inspections 
services to selected establishments in the State and conduct any 
related activities that would be required under a cooperative 
interstate shipment program; and (3) agree to comply with certain 
conditions to assist with enforcement of the

[[Page 24752]]

program. States that have entered into an agreement with FSIS for a 
cooperative interstate shipment program must submit, through the FSIS 
district office, an evaluation of each State-inspected establishment 
that has applied, and that the State recommends be selected, for the 
cooperative interstate shipment program.
    Under this final rule, State inspected establishments selected to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program will be 
required to develop and maintain the same records that are required 
under the Acts and their implementing regulations. Selected 
establishment will also be required to give the FSIS selected 
establishment coordinator (SEC) access to all establishment records 
required under the Acts and implementing regulations. Most States that 
have cooperative State meat or poultry products inspection (MPI) 
programs have incorporated the Federal standards into their programs. 
Thus, most establishments selected to participate in the interstate 
shipment program are currently required to maintain records that comply 
with Federal standards. However, establishments located in States that 
have implemented recordkeeping requirements that are ``at least equal 
to'' but not identical to Federal requirements will need to modify 
their recordkeeping procedures to comply with Federal standards. All 
selected establishments will be required to give the FSIS SEC access to 
their records upon request.
    Estimate of Burden: When it proposed these regulations, FSIS 
estimated that 16 of the 27 States that currently have agreements for 
cooperative State meat or poultry products inspection programs will 
prepare and submit a request to FSIS to establish a cooperative 
interstate shipment program. The Agency also estimated that 
approximately 400 establishments will apply for the program. Thus, FSIS 
estimated that each of the 16 States mentioned above will need to 
prepare and submit, on average, 25 evaluations for the State-inspected 
establishments that have applied for, and that the State recommends, 
for selection into the program, for an estimated total of 400 
evaluations.
    FSIS estimates that it will take approximately 40 hours for each 
State to prepare and submit a request to establish a cooperative 
interstate shipment program, for a total burden of 640 hours. The 
Agency estimates that it will take each State approximately 24 hours to 
prepare an evaluation of a State-inspected establishment's 
qualifications to be selected for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program, for a total burden of 9,600 hours.
    FSIS estimates that if all of the 400 establishments that apply are 
selected for the program, approximately 100 of these establishments 
will need to modify their recordkeeping procedures to come into 
compliance with Federal standards. The extent to which these 
establishments will need to modify their recordkeeping procedures will 
depend on requirements under the State inspection program. Because 
recordkeeping requirements under the State inspection program must be 
``at least equal to'' the Federal requirements, these modifications 
should be minor. FSIS estimates that it will take approximately 16 
hours for each establishment that is currently maintaining records 
under State standards to review and revise its recordkeeping 
procedures, and about 5 minutes for each establishment to file these 
records, for a total burden of approximately 1608 hours.
    All of the estimated 400 establishments that participate in the 
program will be required to give the SEC access to all records required 
under the Federal Acts. FSIS estimates that it will take each 
establishment approximately 15 minutes to assist the SEC to locate the 
necessary records for review on the initial visit, for a total burden 
of 100 hours. FSIS estimates that these establishments will need to 
spend and approximately 5 minutes to assist the SEC locate records for 
review for each subsequent visit. If the SEC visits each selected 
establishment at least once a month, the total burden per establishment 
per year will be 1 hour, for a total estimated annual burden of 400 
hours.
    Respondents: State agencies that administer cooperative State meat 
and poultry products inspection programs and State-inspected 
establishments selected to participate in a cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    Estimated number of respondents: 416 (16 States and 400 State-
inspected establishments).
    Estimated number of responses per respondent: One request to 
establish a cooperative interstate shipment program per State and 25 
evaluations of State-inspected establishments per State, on average.
    A one-time modification of records for each selected establishment 
whose recordkeeping does not comply with all Federal standards. One 
initial SEC visit in which each selected establishment will need to 
provide the SEC with access to all required records. Each establishment 
selected for the program will need to provide the FSIS access to its 
records on an ongoing basis.
    Estimated Total Annual Burden on Respondents: 11,848 hours to 
establish and implement the cooperative interstate shipment program in 
16 States. Once the program has been implemented, an estimated annual 
burden of 400 hours for selected establishments to provide the SEC 
access to establishment records on-going basis.
    Copies of this information collection assessment can be obtained 
from John O'Connell, Paperwork Reduction Act Coordinator, Food Safety 
and Inspection Service, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Room 3532 
South Building, Washington, DC 20250.

Proposed Regulations

List of Subjects

9 CFR Part 321

    Grant programs-agriculture, Intergovernmental relations, Meat 
inspection.

9 CFR Part 332

    Grant programs-agriculture, Intergovernmental relations, Meat 
inspection.

9 CFR Part 381

    Grant programs-agriculture, Intergovernmental relations, Poultry 
and poultry products.

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, FSIS is amending 9 CFR 
Chapter III as follows:

PART 321--COOPERATION WITH STATES AND TERRITORIES

0
1. The authority citation for part 321 is revised to read as follows:

    Authority:  21 U.S.C. 601-695; 7 CFR 2.18, 2.53.


0
2. Section 321.3 is added to read as follows:


Sec.  321.3  Cooperation of States for the interstate shipment of 
carcasses, parts of carcasses, meat, and meat food products.

    (a) The Administrator is authorized under 21 U.S.C. 683(b) to 
coordinate with States that have meat inspection programs as provided 
in Sec.  321.1 of this part to select certain establishments operating 
under these programs to participate in a cooperative program to ship 
carcasses, parts of carcasses, meat, and meat food products in 
interstate commerce. A cooperative program for this purpose is called a 
``cooperative interstate shipment program.''
    (b) Establishments selected to participate in a cooperative 
interstate shipment program described in this

[[Page 24753]]

section must receive inspection services from designated State 
personnel that have been trained in the enforcement of the Act. If the 
designated personnel determine that the carcasses, parts of carcasses, 
meat, and meat food products prepared in establishments selected to 
participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program comply with 
all requirements under the Act, these items will bear an official 
Federal mark of inspection and may be shipped in interstate commerce. 
The Administrator will assign an FSIS ``selected establishment 
coordinator,'' who will be an FSIS employee, to each State that 
participates in a cooperative interstate shipment program to provide 
Federal oversight of the program and enforcement of the program's 
requirements. The Federal contribution for inspection services provided 
by States that enter into a cooperative interstate shipment program 
under this section will be at least 60 percent of eligible State costs. 
Eligible State costs are those costs that a State has justified and 
FSIS has approved as necessary for the State to provide inspection 
services to selected establishments in the State.
    (c) Part 332 of this subchapter prescribes conditions under which 
States and establishments may participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    (d) The Administrator will terminate a cooperative interstate 
shipment agreement with a State if the Administrator determines that 
the State is not conducting inspection at selected establishments in a 
manner that complies with the Act and the implementing regulations in 
this chapter.

0
3. Part 332 is added to read as follows:

PART 332--SELECTED ESTABLISHMENTS; COOPERATIVE PROGRAM FOR 
INTERSTATE SHIPMENT OF CARCASSES, PARTS OF CARCASSES, MEAT, AND 
MEAT FOOD PRODUCTS

Sec.
332.1 Definitions.
332.2 Purpose.
332.3 Requirements for establishments; ineligible establishments.
332.4 State request for cooperative agreement.
332.5 Establishment selection; official number for selected 
establishments.
332.6 Commencement of a cooperative interstate shipment program; 
inspection by designated personnel and official mark.
332.7 Federal oversight of a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
332.8 Quarterly reports.
332.9 Enforcement authority.
332.10 Deselection of ineligible establishments.
332.11 Transition to official establishment.
332.12 Transition grants.
332.13 Separation of operations.
332.14 Voluntary withdrawal.

    Authority:  21 U.S.C. 601-695; 7 CFR 2.18, 2.53.


Sec.  332.1  Definitions.

    Cooperative interstate shipment program. A cooperative meat 
inspection program described in Sec.  321.3 of this subchapter.
    Cooperative State meat inspection program. A cooperative State-
Federal meat inspection program described in Sec.  321.1 of this 
subchapter.
    Designated personnel. State inspection personnel that have been 
trained in the enforcement of the Act and any additional State program 
requirements in order to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments.
    Interstate commerce. ``Interstate commerce'' has the same meaning 
as ``commerce'' under Sec.  301.2 of this subchapter.
    Selected establishment. An establishment operating under a State 
cooperative meat inspection program that has been selected by the 
Administrator, in coordination with the State where the establishment 
is located, to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.


Sec.  332.2  Purpose.

    This part prescribes the conditions under which States that 
administer cooperative State meat inspection programs and 
establishments that operate under such programs may participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program.


Sec.  332.3  Requirements for establishments; ineligible 
establishments.

    (a) An establishment that operates under a cooperative State meat 
inspection program may apply to participate in a cooperative interstate 
shipment program under this part if:
    (1) The establishment employs on average no more than 25 employees 
based on the standards described in paragraph (b) of this section, or
    (2) The establishment employed more than 25 employees but fewer 
than 35 employees as of June 18, 2008. If selected to participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program, an establishment under this 
paragraph must employ on average no more than 25 employees as of July 
1, 2014, or it must transition to become an official establishment as 
provided in Sec.  332.11 of this part.
    (b) An establishment that has 25 or fewer employees based on the 
following standards is considered to have 25 or fewer employees on 
average for purposes of this part.
    (1) All individuals, both supervisory and non-supervisory, employed 
by the establishment on a full-time, part-time, or temporary basis 
whose duties involve handling the meat or meat food products prepared 
by the establishment are counted when calculating the total number of 
employees.
    (2) All individuals employed by the establishment from a temporary 
employee agency, professional employee organization, or leasing concern 
whose duties involve handling the meat or meat food products prepared 
by the establishment are counted when calculating the total number of 
employees.
    (3) The average number of employees is calculated for each of the 
pay periods for the preceding 12 calendar months.
    (4) Part-time and temporary employees are counted the same as full-
time employees.
    (5) If the establishment has not been in business for 12 months, 
the average number of employees is calculated for each of the pay 
periods in which the establishment has been in business.
    (6) Volunteers who receive no compensation are not considered 
employees unless their duties involve handling the meat or meat food 
products prepared by the establishment.
    (7) The total number of employees can never exceed 35 individuals 
at any given time, regardless of the average number of employees.
    (c) The following establishments are ineligible to participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program:
    (1) Establishments that employ more than 25 employees on average 
(except as provided under paragraph (a)(2) of this section);
    (2) Establishments operating under a Federal-State program as 
provided in Sec.  321.2 of this subchapter as of June 18, 2008;
    (3) Official establishments;
    (4) Establishments that were official establishments as of June 18, 
2008, but that were re-organized on a later date by the person that 
controlled the establishment as of June 18, 2008;
    (5) Establishments operating under a cooperative State meat 
inspection that employed more than 35 employees as of June 18, 2008, 
that were reorganized on a later date by the person that controlled the 
establishment as of June 18, 2008;
    (6) Establishments that are the subject of a transition under Sec.  
332.11 of this part;

[[Page 24754]]

    (7) Establishments that are in violation of the Act; and
    (8) Establishments located in States without a cooperative State 
meat inspection program.
    (9) Establishments located in a State whose agreement for a 
cooperative interstate shipment program was terminated by the 
Administrator as provided in Sec.  321.3(d) of this subchapter.
    (d) An establishment that meets the conditions in paragraph (a) of 
this section and that is not an ineligible establishment under 
paragraph (c) of this section may apply for selection into a 
cooperative interstate shipment program through the State in which the 
establishment is located.


Sec.  332.4   State request for cooperative agreement.

    (a) State participation in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program under this part is limited to States that have implemented 
cooperative State meat inspection programs.
    (b) To request an agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program under this part, a State must submit a written request to the 
Administrator through the FSIS District Office for the FSIS District in 
which the State is located. In the request the State must:
    (1) Identify establishments in the State that have requested to be 
selected for the program that the State recommends for initial 
selection into the program, if any;
    (2) Demonstrate that the State is able to provide the necessary 
inspection services to selected establishments in the State and conduct 
any related activities that would be required under a cooperative 
interstate shipment program established under this part; and
    (3) Agree that, if the State enters into an agreement with FSIS for 
a cooperative interstate shipment program, the State will:
    (i) Provide FSIS with access to the results of all laboratory 
analyses conducted on product samples from selected establishments in 
the State;
    (ii) Notify the selected establishment coordinator for the State of 
the results of any laboratory analyses that indicate that a product 
prepared in a selected establishment may be adulterated or may 
otherwise present a food safety concern; and
    (iii) When necessary, cooperate with FSIS to transition selected 
establishments in the State that have been deselected from a 
cooperative interstate shipment program to become official 
establishments.
    (c) If the Administrator determines that a State that has submitted 
a request to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program 
qualifies to enter into a cooperative agreement for such a program, the 
Administrator and the State will sign a cooperative agreement that sets 
forth the terms and conditions under which each party will cooperate to 
provide inspection services to selected establishments located in the 
State.
    (d) After the Administrator and a State have signed an agreement 
for a cooperative interstate shipment program as provided in paragraph 
(c) of this section, the Administrator will:
    (1) Appoint an FSIS employee as the FSIS selected establishment 
coordinator for the State and
    (2) Coordinate with the State to select establishments to 
participate in the program as provided in Sec.  332.5(b) of this part.


Sec.  332.5   Establishment selection; official number for selected 
establishments.

    (a) An establishment operating under a cooperative State meat 
inspection program will qualify for selection into a cooperative 
interstate shipment program if the establishment:
    (1) Has submitted a request to the State to be selected for the 
program;
    (2) Has the appropriate number of employees under Sec.  332.3(a) of 
this part;
    (3) Is not ineligible to participate in a cooperative interstate 
shipment program under Sec.  332.3(c) of this part;
    (4) Is in compliance with all requirements under the cooperative 
State meat inspection program; and
    (5) Is in compliance with all requirements under the Act and the 
implementing regulations in this chapter.
    (b) To participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program, an 
establishment that meets the conditions in paragraph (a) of this 
section must be selected by the Administrator, in coordination with the 
State where the establishment is located.
    (c) If an establishment is selected to participate in a cooperative 
interstate shipment program as provided in paragraph (b) of this 
section, the State is to assign the establishment an official number 
that reflects the establishment's participation in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program and advise the FSIS selected establishment 
coordinator for the State of the official number assigned to each 
selected establishment in the State. The official number assigned to 
every selected establishment must contain a suffix, e.g., ``SE,'' that 
identifies the establishment as a selected establishment and that 
identifies the State, e.g., ``SETX,'' for ``selected establishment 
Texas.''
    (d) Failure of the State to comply with paragraph (c) of this 
section will disqualify the State from participation in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program.


Sec.  332.6  Commencement of a cooperative interstate shipment program; 
inspection by designated personnel and official mark.

    (a) A cooperative interstate shipment program will commence when 
the Administrator, in coordination with the State, has selected 
establishments in the State to participate in the program.
    (b) Inspection services for selected establishments participating 
in a cooperative interstate shipment program must be provided by 
designated personnel, who will be under the direct supervision of a 
State employee.
    (c) Carcasses, parts of carcasses, meat, and meat food products 
prepared in a selected establishment and inspected and passed by 
designated State personnel must bear an official Federal mark, stamp, 
tag, or label of inspection in the appropriate form prescribed in part 
312 of this subchapter that includes the information specified in Sec.  
332.5(c) of this part.
    (d) Carcasses, parts of carcasses, meat, and meat food products 
prepared in a selected establishment that comply with the conditions in 
paragraph (c) of this section may be distributed in interstate 
commerce.


Sec.  332.7  Federal oversight of a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.

    (a) The FSIS selected establishment coordinator for a State that 
has entered into an agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program will visit each selected establishment in the State on a 
regular basis to verify that the establishment is operating in a manner 
that is consistent with the Act and the implementing regulations in 
this chapter. The frequency with which the SEC will visit selected 
establishments under the SEC's jurisdiction will be based on factors 
that include, but are not limited to, the complexity of the operations 
conducted at the selected establishment, the establishment's schedule 
of operations, and the establishment's performance under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. If necessary, the selected 
establishment coordinator, in consultation with the District Manager 
that covers the State, may designate qualified FSIS personnel to visit 
a selected establishment on behalf of the selected establishment 
coordinator.
    (b) The selected establishment coordinator, in coordination with 
the

[[Page 24755]]

State, will verify that selected establishments in the State are 
receiving the necessary inspection services from designated personnel, 
and that these establishments are eligible, and remain eligible, to 
participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program. The selected 
establishment coordinator's verification activities may include:
    (1) Verifying that each selected establishment employs, and 
continues to employ, 25 or fewer employees, on average, as required 
under Sec.  332.3(a) of this part, unless the establishment is 
transitioning to become an official establishment;
    (2) Verifying that the designated personnel are providing 
inspection services to selected establishments in a manner that 
complies with the Act and the implementing regulations in this chapter;
    (3) Verifying that that the State staffing levels for each selected 
establishments are appropriate to carry out the required inspection 
activities; and
    (4) Assessing each selected establishment's compliance with the Act 
and implementing regulations under this chapter.
    (c) If the selected establishment coordinator determines that 
designated personnel are providing inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State in a manner that is inconsistent with the 
Act and the implementing regulations in this chapter, the Administrator 
will provide an opportunity for the State to develop and implement a 
corrective action plan to address inspection deficiencies identified by 
the selected establishment coordinator. If the State fails to develop a 
corrective action plan, or the selected establishment coordinator for 
the State determines that the corrective action plan is inadequate, the 
Administrator will terminate the agreement for the cooperative 
interstate shipment program as provided in Sec.  321.3(d) of this 
chapter.


Sec. 332.8  Quarterly reports.

    (a) The selected establishment coordinator will prepare a report on 
a quarterly basis that describes the status of each selected 
establishment under his or her jurisdiction.
    (b) The quarterly report required in paragraph (a) of this section 
will:
    (1) Include the selected establishment coordinator's assessment of 
the performance of the designated personnel in conducting inspection 
activities at selected establishments and
    (2) Identify those selected establishments that the selected 
establishment coordinator has verified are in compliance with the Act 
and implementing regulations in this chapter, those that have been 
deselected under Sec.  332.10 of this part, and those that are 
transitioning to become official establishments under Sec.  332.11 of 
this part.
    (c) The selected establishment coordinator is to submit the 
quarterly report to the Administrator through the District Manager for 
the State where the selected establishments identified in the report 
are located.


Sec.  332.9  Enforcement authority.

    (a) To facilitate oversight and enforcement of this part, selected 
establishments operating under a cooperative interstate shipment 
program must, upon request, give the FSIS selected establishment 
coordinator or other FSIS officials access to all establishment records 
required under the Act and the implementing regulations in this 
chapter. The Administrator may deselect any selected establishment that 
refuses to comply with this paragraph.
    (b) Selected establishment coordinators may initiate any 
appropriate enforcement action provided for in part 500 of this chapter 
if they determine that a selected establishment under their 
jurisdiction is operating in a manner that is inconsistent with the Act 
and the implementing regulations in this chapter. Selected 
establishments participating in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program are subject to the notification and appeal procedures set out 
in part 500 of this chapter.
    (c) If inspection at a selected establishment is suspended for any 
of the reasons specified in Sec.  500.3 or Sec.  500.4 of this chapter, 
FSIS will:
    (1) Provide an opportunity for the establishment to implement 
corrective actions and remain in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, or
    (2) Move to deselect the establishment as provided in Sec.  332.10 
of this part.
    (d) The decision to deselect a selected establishment under a 
suspension will be made on a case-by-case basis. In making this 
decision, FSIS, in consultation with the State where the selected 
establishment is located, will consider, among other factors:
    (1) The non-compliance that led to the suspension;
    (2) The selected establishment's compliance history; and
    (3) The corrective actions proposed by the selected establishment.


Sec.  332.10  Deselection of ineligible establishments.

    (a) The Administrator will deselect a selected establishment that 
becomes ineligible to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program for any reason listed under Sec.  332.3(c) of this part.
    (b) An establishment that has been deselected must transition to 
become an official establishment as provided in Sec.  332.11 of this 
part.


Sec.  332.11  Transition to official establishment.

    (a) If an establishment is deselected from a cooperative interstate 
shipment program as provided in Sec.  332.10 of this part, FSIS, in 
coordination with the State where the establishment is located, will 
develop and implement a plan to transition the establishment to become 
an official establishment. Except that an establishment that was 
deselected from a cooperative interstate shipment program because it is 
located in a State whose agreement for such a program was terminated 
may either transition to become an official establishment or transition 
to become a State-inspected establishment under the cooperative State 
meat inspection program.
    (b) An establishment that has been deselected from a cooperative 
interstate shipment program and successfully transitioned to become an 
official establishment may withdraw from the Federal inspection program 
and resume operations under the cooperative State meat inspection 
program after operating as an official establishment in full compliance 
with the Act for a year.


Sec.  332.12  Transition grants.

    (a) Transition grants are funds that a State participating in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program under this part may apply for 
to reimburse selected establishments in the State for the cost to train 
one individual in the seven HACCP principles for meat or poultry 
processing as required under Sec.  417.7 of this chapter and associated 
training in the development of sanitation standard operating procedures 
required under part 416 of this chapter.
    (b) A State participating in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program that receives a transition grant must use grant funds to 
reimburse the training costs of one employee per each selected 
establishment in the State. Any other use of such funds is prohibited.


Sec.  332.13  Separation of operations.

    A selected establishment may conduct operations under the 
cooperative State meat inspection program if the establishment 
implements and maintains written procedures for complete physical 
separation of product and process for each operation by time or space.

[[Page 24756]]

Sec.  332.14  Voluntary withdrawal.

    A selected establishment that is in full compliance with the 
requirements in this part may voluntarily end its participation in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program and operate under the 
cooperative State meat inspection program. Establishments that 
voluntarily end their participation in the cooperative may re-apply for 
the program after operating under the cooperative State meat inspection 
program for one year.

PART 381--POULTRY PRODUCTS INSPECTION REGULATIONS

0
4. The authority citation for part 381 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 138f, 450; 21 U.S.C. 451-470; 7 CFR 2.7, 
2.18, 2.53.


0
5. Add Sec.  381.187 to subpart R to read as follows:


Sec.  381.187  Cooperation of States for the interstate shipment of 
poultry products.

    (a) The Administrator is authorized under 21 U.S.C. 472(b) to 
coordinate with States that have poultry products inspection programs 
as provided in Sec.  381.185 of this subpart to select certain 
establishments operating under these programs to participate in a 
cooperative program to ship poultry products in interstate commerce. A 
cooperative program for this purpose is called a ``cooperative 
interstate shipment program.''
    (b) Establishments selected to participate in a cooperative 
interstate shipment program described in this section must receive 
inspection services from designated State personnel that have been 
trained in the enforcement of the Act. If the designated personnel 
determine that the poultry products prepared in establishments selected 
to participate in the cooperative interstate shipment program comply 
with all requirements under the Act, these items will bear an official 
Federal mark of inspection and may be shipped in interstate commerce. 
The Administrator will assign an FSIS ``selected establishment 
coordinator,'' who will be an FSIS employee, to each State that 
participates in a cooperative interstate shipment program to provide 
Federal oversight of the program and enforcement of the program's 
requirements. The Federal contribution for inspection services provided 
by States that enter into a cooperative interstate shipment program 
under this section will be at least 60 percent of eligible State costs. 
Eligible State costs are those costs that a State has justified and 
FSIS has approved as necessary for the State to provide inspection 
services to selected establishments in the State.
    (c) Subpart Z, of this part 381 prescribes conditions under which 
States and establishments may participate in the cooperative interstate 
shipment program.
    (d) The Administrator will terminate a cooperative interstate 
shipment agreement with a State if the Administrator determines that 
the State is not conducting inspection at selected establishments in a 
manner that complies with the Act and the implementing regulations in 
this chapter.


0
6. Add subpart Z to read as follows:
Subpart Z--Selected Establishments; Cooperative Program for Interstate 
Shipment of Poultry Products
Sec.
381.511 Definitions.
381.512 Purpose.
381.513 Requirements for establishments; ineligible establishments.
381.514 State request for cooperative agreement.
381.515 Establishment selection; official number for selected 
establishments.
381.516 Commencement of a cooperative interstate shipment program; 
inspection by designated personnel and official mark.
381.517 Federal oversight of a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.
381.518 Quarterly reports.
381.519 Enforcement authority.
381.520 Deselection of ineligible establishments.
381.521 Transition to official establishment.
381.522 Transition grants.
381.523 Separation of operations.
381.524 Voluntary withdrawal.

Subpart Z--Selected Establishments; Cooperative Program for 
Interstate Shipment of Poultry Products


Sec.  381.511  Definitions.

    Cooperative interstate shipment program. A cooperative poultry 
products inspection program described in Sec.  381.187 of this part.
    Cooperative State poultry products inspection program. A 
cooperative State-Federal poultry products inspection program described 
in Sec.  381.185 of this part.
    Designated personnel. State inspection personnel that have been 
trained in the enforcement of the Act and any additional State program 
requirements in order to provide inspection services to selected 
establishments.
    Interstate commerce. ``Interstate commerce'' has the same meaning 
as ``commerce'' under Sec.  381.1 of this part.
    Selected establishment. An establishment operating under a State 
cooperative poultry products inspection program that has been selected 
by the Administrator, in coordination with the State where the 
establishment is located, to participate in a cooperative interstate 
shipment program.


Sec.  381.512  Purpose.

    This subpart Z prescribes the conditions under which States that 
administer cooperative State poultry products inspection programs and 
establishments that operate under such programs may participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program.


Sec.  381.513  Requirements for establishments; ineligible 
establishments.

    (a) An establishment that operates under a cooperative State 
poultry products inspection program may apply to participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program under this subpart if:
    (1) The establishment employs on average no more than 25 employees 
based on the standards described in paragraph (b) of this section, or
    (2) The establishment employed more than 25 employees but fewer 
than 35 employees as of June 18, 2008. If selected to participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program, an establishment under this 
paragraph must employ on average no more than 25 employees as of July 
1, 2014, or it must transition to become an official establishment as 
provided in Sec.  381.521 of this subpart.
    (b) An establishment that has 25 or fewer employees based on the 
following standards is considered to have 25 or fewer employees on 
average for purposes of this subpart.
    (1) All individuals, both supervisory and non-supervisory, employed 
by the establishment on a full-time, part-time, or temporary basis 
whose duties involve handling the poultry products prepared by the 
establishment are counted when calculating the total number of 
employees.
    (2) All individuals employed by the establishment from a temporary 
employee agency, professional employee organization, or leasing concern 
whose duties involve handling the poultry products prepared by the 
establishment are counted when calculating the total number of 
employees.
    (3) The average number of employees is calculated for each of the 
pay periods for the preceding 12 calendar months.
    (4) Part-time and temporary employees are counted the same as full-
time employees.
    (5) If the establishment has not been in business for 12 months, 
the average

[[Page 24757]]

number of employees is calculated for each of the pay periods in which 
the establishment has been in business.
    (6) Volunteers who receive no compensation are not considered 
employees unless their duties involve handling the poultry products 
prepared by the establishment.
    (7) The total number of employees can never exceed 35 individuals 
at any given time, regardless of the average number of employees.
    (c) The following establishments are ineligible to participate in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program:
    (1) Establishments that employ more than 25 employees on average 
(except as provided under paragraph (a)(2) of this section);
    (2) Establishments operating under a Federal-State program as 
provided in Sec.  381.186 of this part as of June 18, 2008;
    (3) Official establishments;
    (4) Establishments that were official establishments as of June 18, 
2008, but that were re-organized on a later date by the person that 
controlled the establishment as of June 18, 2008;
    (5) Establishments operating under a cooperative State poultry 
products inspection program that employed more than 35 employees as of 
June 18, 2008, that were reorganized on a later date by the person that 
controlled the establishment as of June 18, 2008;
    (6) Establishments that are the subject of a transition under Sec.  
381.521 of this subpart;
    (7) Establishments that are in violation of the Act; and
    (8) Establishments located in States without a cooperative State 
poultry products inspection program.
    (9) Establishments located in a State whose agreement for a 
cooperative interstate shipment program was terminated by the 
Administrator as provided in Sec.  381.187(d) of this part.
    (d) An establishment that meets the conditions in paragraph (a) of 
this section and that is not an ineligible establishment under 
paragraph (c) of this section may apply for selection into a 
cooperative interstate shipment program through the State in which the 
establishment is located.


Sec.  381.514  State request for cooperative agreement.

    (a) State participation in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program under this subpart is limited to States that have implemented 
cooperative State poultry products inspection programs.
    (b) To request an agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program under this subpart, a State must submit a written request to 
the Administrator through the FSIS District Office for the FSIS 
District in which the State is located. In the request the State must:
    (1) Identify establishments in the State that have requested to be 
selected for the program that the State recommends for initial 
selection into the program, if any;
    (2) Demonstrate that the State is able to provide the necessary 
inspection services to selected establishments in the State and conduct 
any related activities that would be required under a cooperative 
interstate shipment program established under this subpart; and
    (3) Agree that, if the State enters into an agreement with FSIS for 
a cooperative interstate shipment program, the State will:
    (i) Provide FSIS with access to the results of all laboratory 
analyses conducted on product samples from selected establishments in 
the State;
    (ii) Notify the selected establishment coordinator for the State of 
the results of any laboratory analyses that indicate that a product 
prepared in a selected establishment may be adulterated or may 
otherwise present a food safety concern; and
    (iii) When necessary, cooperate with FSIS to transition selected 
establishments in the State that have been deselected from a 
cooperative interstate shipment program to become official 
establishments.
    (c) If the Administrator determines that a State that has submitted 
a request to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program 
qualifies to enter into a cooperative agreement for such a program, the 
Administrator and the State will sign a cooperative agreement that sets 
forth the terms and conditions under which each party will cooperate to 
provide inspection services to selected establishments located in the 
State.
    (d) After the Administrator and a State have signed an agreement 
for a cooperative interstate shipment program as provided in paragraph 
(c) of this section, the Administrator will:
    (1) Appoint an FSIS employee as the FSIS selected establishment 
coordinator for the State and
    (2) Coordinate with the State to select establishments to 
participate in the program as provided in Sec.  381.515(b) of this 
subpart.


Sec.  381.515  Establishment selection; official number for selected 
establishments.

    (a) An establishment operating under a cooperative State poultry 
products inspection program will qualify for selection into a 
cooperative interstate shipment program if the establishment:
    (1) Has submitted a request to the State to be selected for the 
program;
    (2) Has the appropriate number of employees under Sec.  381.513(a) 
of this subpart;
    (3) Is not ineligible to participate in a cooperative interstate 
shipment program under Sec.  381.513(c) of this subpart;
    (4) Is in compliance with all requirements under the cooperative 
State poultry products inspection program; and
    (5) Is in compliance with all requirements under the Act and the 
implementing regulations in this chapter.
    (b) To participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program, an 
establishment that meets the conditions in paragraph (a) of this 
section must be selected by the Administrator, in coordination with the 
State where the establishment is located.
    (c) If an establishment is selected to participate in a cooperative 
interstate shipment program as provided in paragraph (b) of this 
section, the State is to assign the establishment an official number 
that reflects the establishment's participation in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program and advise the FSIS selected establishment 
coordinator for the State of the official number assigned to each 
selected establishment in the State. The official numbers assigned to 
every selected establishment must contain a suffix, e.g., ``SE,'' that 
identifies the establishment as a selected establishment; that includes 
the letter ``P,'' which identifies the establishment as a poultry 
establishment; and that identifies the State, e.g., ``SEPND,'' for 
``selected establishment poultry North Dakota.''
    (d) Failure of a State to comply with paragraph (c) of this section 
will disqualify the State from participation in the cooperative 
interstate shipment program.


Sec.  381.516  Commencement of a cooperative interstate shipment 
program; inspection by designated personnel and official mark.

    (a) A cooperative interstate shipment program will commence when 
the Administrator, in coordination with the State, has selected 
establishments in the State to participate in the program.
    (b) Inspection services for selected establishments participating 
in a cooperative interstate shipment program must be provided by 
designated personnel, who will be under the direct supervision of a 
State employee.
    (c) Poultry products processed in a selected establishment and 
inspected and passed by designated State

[[Page 24758]]

personnel must bear an official Federal mark, stamp, tag, or label of 
inspection in the appropriate form prescribed in subpart M of this part 
that includes the information specified in Sec.  381.515(c) of this 
subpart.
    (d) Poultry products processed in a selected establishment that 
comply with the conditions in paragraph (c) of this section may be 
distributed in interstate commerce.


Sec.  381.517  Federal oversight of a cooperative interstate shipment 
program.

    (a) The FSIS selected establishment coordinator for a State that 
has entered into an agreement for a cooperative interstate shipment 
program will visit each selected establishment in the State on a 
regular basis to verify that the establishment is operating in a manner 
that is consistent with the Act and the implementing regulations in 
this chapter. The frequency with which the SEC will visit selected 
establishments under the SEC's jurisdiction will be based on factors 
that include, but are not limited to, the complexity of the operations 
conducted at the selected establishment, the establishment's schedule 
of operations, and the establishment's performance under the 
cooperative interstate shipment program. If necessary, the selected 
establishment coordinator, in consultation with the District Manager 
that covers the State, may designate qualified FSIS personnel to visit 
a selected establishment on behalf of the selected establishment 
coordinator.
    (b) The selected establishment coordinator, in coordination with 
the State, will verify that selected establishments in the State are 
receiving the necessary inspection services from designated personnel, 
and that these establishments are eligible, and remain eligible, to 
participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program. The selected 
establishment coordinator's verification activities may include:
    (1) Verifying that each selected establishment employs, and 
continues to employ, 25 or fewer employees, on average, as required 
under Sec.  381.513(a) of this part, unless the establishment is 
transitioning to become an official establishment;
    (2) Verifying that the designated personnel are providing 
inspection services to selected establishments in a manner that 
complies with the Act and the implementing regulations in this chapter;
    (3) Verifying that that the State staffing levels for each selected 
establishments are appropriate to carry out the required inspection 
activities; and
    (4) Assessing each selected establishment's compliance with the Act 
and implementing regulations in this chapter.
    (c) If the selected establishment coordinator determines that 
designated personnel are providing inspection services to selected 
establishments in the State in a manner that is inconsistent with the 
Acts and the implementing regulations in this chapter, the 
Administrator will provide an opportunity for the State to develop and 
implement a corrective action plan to address inspection deficiencies 
identified by the selected establishment coordinator. If the State 
fails to develop a corrective action plan, or the selected 
establishment coordinator for the State determines that the corrective 
action plan is inadequate, the Administrator will terminate the 
agreement for the cooperative interstate shipment program as provided 
in Sec.  381.187(d) of this part.


Sec.  381.518   Quarterly reports.

    (a) The selected establishment coordinator will prepare a report on 
a quarterly basis that describes the status of each selected 
establishment under his or her jurisdiction.
    (b) The quarterly report required in paragraph (a) of this section 
will:
    (1) Include the selected establishment coordinator's assessment of 
the performance of the designated personnel in conducting inspection 
activities at selected establishments and
    (2) Identify those selected establishment that the selected 
establishment coordinator has verified are in compliance with the Act 
and implementing regulations in this chapter, those that have been 
deselected under Sec.  381.520 of this subpart, and those that are 
transitioning to become official establishments under Sec.  381.521 of 
this subpart.
    (c) The selected establishment coordinator is to submit the 
quarterly report to the Administrator through the District Manager for 
the State where the selected establishments identified in the report 
are located.


Sec.  381.519  Enforcement authority.

    (a) To facilitate oversight and enforcement of this subpart, 
selected establishments operating under a cooperative interstate 
shipment program must, upon request, give the FSIS selected 
establishment coordinator or other FSIS officials access to all 
establishment records required under the Act and the implementing 
regulations in this chapter. The Administrator may deselect any 
selected establishment that refuses to comply with this paragraph.
    (b) Selected establishment coordinators may initiate any 
appropriate enforcement action provided for in part 500 of this chapter 
if they determine that a selected establishment under their 
jurisdiction is operating in manner that is inconsistent with the Act 
and the implementing regulations in this chapter. Selected 
establishments participating in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program are subject to the notification and appeal procedures set out 
in part 500 of this chapter.
    (c) If inspection at a selected establishment is suspended for any 
of the reasons specified in Sec.  500.3 or Sec.  500.4 of this chapter, 
FSIS will:
    (1) Provide an opportunity for the establishment to implement 
corrective actions and remain in the cooperative interstate shipment 
program, or
    (2) Move to deselect the establishment as provided in Sec.  381.520 
of this subpart.
    (d) The decision to deselect a selected establishment under a 
suspension will be made on a case-by-case basis. In making this 
decision, FSIS, in consultation with the State where the selected 
establishment is located, will consider, among other factors:
    (1) The non-compliance that led to the suspension;
    (2) The selected establishment's compliance history; and
    (3) The corrective actions proposed by the selected establishment.


Sec.  381.520  Deselection of ineligible establishments.

    (a) The Administrator will deselect a selected establishment that 
becomes ineligible to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program for any reason listed under Sec.  381.513(c) of this subpart.
    (b) An establishment that has been deselected must transition to 
become an official establishment as provided in Sec.  381.521 of this 
subpart.


Sec.  381.521  Transition to official establishment.

    (a) If an establishment is deselected from a cooperative interstate 
shipment program as provided in Sec.  381.520 of this subpart, FSIS, in 
coordination with the State where the establishment is located, will 
develop and implement a plan to transition the establishment to become 
an official establishment. Except that an establishment that was 
deselected from a cooperative interstate shipment program because it is 
located in a State whose agreement for such a program was terminated 
may either transition to become an official establishment or transition 
to become a State-inspected establishment under the

[[Page 24759]]

cooperative State poultry products inspection program.
    (b) An establishment that has been deselected from a cooperative 
interstate shipment program and successfully transitioned to become an 
official establishment may withdraw from the Federal inspection program 
and resume operations under the cooperative State poultry products 
inspection program after operating as an official establishment in full 
compliance with the Act for a year.


Sec.  381.522  Transition grants.

    (a) Transition grants are funds that a State participating in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program under this subpart may apply 
for to reimburse selected establishments in the State for the cost to 
train one individual in the seven HACCP principles for meat or poultry 
processing as required under Sec.  417.7 of this chapter and associated 
training in the development of sanitation standard operating procedures 
required under part 416 of this chapter.
    (b) A State participating in a cooperative interstate shipment 
program that receives a transition grant must use grant funds to 
reimburse the training costs of one employee per each selected 
establishment in the State. Any other use of such funds is prohibited.


Sec.  381.523  Separation of operations.

    A selected establishment may conduct operations under the 
cooperative State poultry products inspection program if the 
establishment implements and maintains written procedures for complete 
physical separation of product and process for each operation by time 
or space.


Sec.  381.524  Voluntary withdrawal.

    A selected establishment that is in full compliance with the 
requirements in this part may voluntarily end its participation in a 
cooperative interstate shipment program and operate under the 
cooperative State poultry products inspection program. Establishments 
that voluntarily end their participation in the cooperative may re-
apply for the program after operating under the cooperative State 
poultry products inspection program for one year.

    Done at Washington, DC, on: March 31, 2011.
Alfred V. Almanza,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2011-9865 Filed 4-29-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P