[Federal Register: August 13, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 156)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 42472-42474]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr13au01-17]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Part 327

[Docket No. 99-018P]

 
Addition of Slovakia to the List of Countries Eligible To Export 
Meat Products Into the United States

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing to 
add Slovakia to the list of countries eligible to export meat and meat 
products to the United States. Reviews by FSIS of Slovakia's laws, 
regulations, and other written materials show that its meat processing 
system meets requirements that are equivalent to the relevant 
provisions of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and its 
implementing regulations.
    Under this proposal, meat products processed in certified 
establishments in Slovakia will be permitted to be exported to the 
United States if these products are derived from cattle, sheep, swine, 
and goats slaughtered in federally inspected establishments in the 
United States, or in certified slaughter establishments in other 
countries eligible to export meat to the United States. All meat 
products exported from Slovakia to the United States will be 
reinspected at the U.S. ports-of-entry by FSIS inspectors as required 
by law.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 12, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Send an original and two copies of comments to:
    FSIS Docket Clerk, Docket #99-018P, Room 102, Cotton Annex, 300 C 
Street, SW., Washington, DC 20250-3700. Reference materials cited in 
this document and any comments received will be available for public 
inspection in the FSIS Docket Room from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday 
through Friday.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Sally Stratmoen, Acting Director, 
International Policy Development Staff, Office of Policy, Program 
Development and Evaluation; (202) 720-6400.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    FSIS is proposing to amend the Federal meat inspection regulations 
to add Slovakia to the list of countries eligible to export meat and 
meat products to the United States. In 1972, the country formerly known 
as Czechoslovakia completed the eligibility process for exportation of 
meat products to the United States. The country maintained its 
eligibility until it split into two separate countries, the Czech 
Republic and Slovakia, on January 1, 1993. The part of the country that 
became the Czech Republic continued to maintain a meat inspection 
system under the same laws and regulations that existed when it was 
part of Czechoslovakia. Since FSIS had previously determined that these 
laws and regulations were equivalent to the meat inspection standards 
applied to products produced in the United States, the Agency 
determined that the newly formed Czech Republic would continue to be 
eligible to export meat and meat products to the United States. On 
February 24, 1995, FSIS published a direct final rule to amend section 
327 of the meat inspection regulations (9 CFR part 327) to remove 
``Czechoslovakia'' and add the ``Czech Republic'' to the list of 
countries eligible to export meat products to the United States (60 FR 
10306).
    The part of former Czechoslovakia that became Slovakia had never 
had any certified meat inspection plants, nor had it exported any meat 
products to the United States. Given this history and the lack of 
information about the Slovakian meat inspection system, FSIS was not 
certain that Slovakia's meat inspection system was equivalent to that 
of the United States. Therefore, FSIS decided to require that Slovakia 
request and receive approval from FSIS before it could be deemed 
eligible to have its meat products exported to the United States.
    Section 20 of the FMIA (21 U.S.C. 620) prohibits the importation 
into the United States of carcasses, parts of carcasses, meat, or meat 
food products of cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules, or other 
equines that are capable for use as human food that are adulterated or 
misbranded. Imported meat products must be in compliance with the 
Federal meat inspection regulations to ensure that they meet the 
standards provided in the FMIA. 9 CFR 327.2 establishes the procedures 
by which foreign countries that want to export meat or meat products to 
the United States may become eligible to do so.
    Section 327.2(a) requires that authorities in a foreign country's 
meat inspection system certify that (1) the system provides standards 
equivalent to those of the United States and (2) the legal authority 
for the system and its implementing regulations are equivalent to those 
of the United States. Specifically, a country's regulations must impose 
requirements that are equivalent to those of the United States in the 
following areas: (1) Ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection; (2) 
official controls by the national government over plant construction, 
facilities, and equipment; (3) direct and continuous supervision of 
slaughter activities, where applicable, and product preparation by 
official inspection personnel; (4) separation of establishments 
certified to export from those not certified; (5) maintenance of a 
single standard of inspection and sanitation throughout certified 
establishments; and (6) official controls over condemned product.
    Section 327.2 also requires that a meat inspection system 
maintained by a foreign country, with respect to establishments that 
prepare products in that country for export to the United States, 
ensure that those establishments and their meat products comply with 
requirements that are equivalent to the provisions of the FMIA and the 
meat inspection regulations. Foreign country authorities must be able 
to ensure that all certifications required under Part 327 of the meat 
inspection regulations (Imported Products) can be relied upon before 
approval to export meat products to the United States will be granted 
by FSIS. Besides relying on its initial determination of a country's 
eligibility, coupled with ongoing reviews to ensure that products 
shipped to the United States are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled 
and packaged, FSIS randomly samples imported meat and meat products for 
reinspection as they enter the United States.
    In addition to meeting the certification requirements, a foreign 
country's inspection system must be evaluated by FSIS before it will be 
granted eligibility to export meat products to the United States. This 
evaluation consists of two processes: a document review and an on-site 
review. The document review is an evaluation of the laws, regulations, 
and other written materials used by the country to operate its 
inspection program. To help the country organize its materials, FSIS 
gives the country questionnaires that ask for detailed information 
about the country's inspection practices and procedures in five risk 
areas. These five risk areas, which are the focus of the evaluation, 
are sanitation, animal disease, slaughter/processing, residues, and 
enforcement. FSIS evaluates the information to verify that the critical 
points in the five risk areas are addressed satisfactorily with respect 
to standards, activities, resources, and enforcement. If the document 
review is satisfactory, an on-site review is

[[Page 42473]]

scheduled using a multi-disciplinary team to evaluate all aspects of 
the country's inspection program, including laboratories and individual 
establishments within the country.

Evaluation of the Slovakian Inspection System

    In response to a request from Slovakia for approval to export meat 
and meat products to the United States, FSIS conducted a review of the 
Slovakian meat inspection system to determine if it is equivalent to 
the U.S. meat inspection system. First, FSIS compared Slovakia's meat 
inspection laws and regulations with U.S. requirements. The study 
concluded that the requirements contained in Slovakia's meat inspection 
laws and regulations are equivalent to those mandated by the FMIA and 
its implementing regulations. FSIS then conducted an on-site review of 
the Slovakian meat inspection system in operation. The FSIS review team 
concluded that Slovakia's implementation of meat processing standards 
and procedures is equivalent to that of the United States, and that 
Slovakia's official residue control laboratory is fully capable of 
testing meat products.
    If this proposal is adopted by FSIS, meat products exported to the 
United States from Slovakia will be reinspected at the ports-of-entry 
for transportation damage, labeling, proper certification, general 
condition, and accurate count. Other types of inspection will also be 
conducted, including examining the product for defects and performing 
laboratory analyses to detect chemical residues in the product or to 
determine whether the product is microbiologically contaminated.
    Products that pass reinspection will be stamped with the official 
mark of inspection and allowed to enter U.S. commerce. If they do not 
meet U.S. requirements, they will be stamped ``U.S. Refused Entry'' and 
re-exported, destroyed, or converted to animal food.
    Accordingly, FSIS is proposing to amend section 327 of the meat 
inspection regulations to add Slovakia as a country from which meat and 
meat products may be eligible for export to the United States. As a 
country eligible to export meat and meat products to the United States, 
the government of Slovakia will certify to FSIS those establishments 
that intend to export such products to the United States and that 
operate according to U.S. requirements. FSIS will verify that 
establishments certified by the Slovakia government are meeting the 
U.S. requirements. This verification will be done through on-site 
reviews of the establishments while they are in operation.
    Although a foreign country may be listed as eligible to export meat 
and meat products, products from that country must also comply with 
other U.S. requirements, including the restrictions under title 9, part 
94 of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's regulations that 
relate to the importation of meat and meat products from foreign 
countries into the United States.

Executive Order 12988

    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, 
Civil Justice Reform. States and local jurisdictions are preempted by 
the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) from imposing any marking, 
labeling, packaging, or ingredient requirements on federally inspected 
meat or meat products that are in addition to, or different than, those 
imposed under the FMIA. States and local jurisdictions may, however, 
exercise concurrent jurisdiction over meat and meat products that are 
outside official establishments for the purpose of preventing the 
distribution of meat and meat products that are misbranded or 
adulterated under the FMIA, or, in the case of imported articles, that 
are not at such an establishment, after their entry into the United 
States. This proposed rule is not intended to have retroactive effect. 
If this proposed rule is adopted, administrative proceedings will not 
be required before parties may file suit in court challenging this 
rule. However, the administrative procedures specified in 9 CFR 306.5 
must be exhausted prior to any judicial challenge of the application of 
the provisions of this proposed rule, if the challenge involves any 
decision of an FSIS employee relating to inspection services provided 
under the FMIA.

Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act

    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12866. 
It has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive 
Order 12866 and therefore, has not been reviewed by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB).
    Currently, there is only one establishment in Slovakia that has 
applied for USDA Meat Plant Certification for Export. This 
establishment would export non-heat treated shelf stable meat products, 
such as sausages and salami, and non-shelf stable cooked meat products, 
such as pasteurized hams and specialty cured, cooked, and smoked meat 
products. U.S. imports from this establishment are expected to total 
520 tons per year.
    U.S. firms currently export no meat products and only a small 
amount of poultry products to Slovakia. Table 1 reports U.S. exports of 
poultry and pork products to Slovakia from 1994 to 2000. Poultry 
exports were highest in 1994, before declining and eventually falling 
to zero in 1996. Poultry exports reappeared again in 1998, but again at 
relatively low levels.
    Table 1 also reports U.S. exports of pork products to Slovakia. 
Between 1994 and 2000, U.S. firms exported pork products to Slovakia 
only once, in 1994. Since then, the U.S. has not had any exports of 
meat products to Slovakia.
    If this proposal is issued as a final rule, it could begin to 
reopen trade between the United States and Slovakia. During much of the 
mid-1990's, many emerging democratic nations faced substantial economic 
obstacles. Listing Slovakia as a country eligible to export meat and 
meat products to the United States could begin the process of 
reacquainting Slovakia with U.S. firms.
    Expected benefits from this type of proposed rule would generally 
accrue to consumers in the form of lower prices. However, the volume of 
trade stimulated by this proposal is likely to be so small as to have 
little effect on supply and farm-level prices for livestock. Apart from 
any change in prices, U.S. consumers may still benefit from an 
increased choice of meat products in the marketplace.
    The costs of this proposed rule will accrue primarily to producers 
in the form of greater competition from Slovakia. However, as mentioned 
in the preceding paragraph, the volume of trade stimulated by this rule 
would be very small and is likely to have little effect on supply and 
farm-level prices. Nonetheless, it is possible that U.S. firms that 
produce products that would compete with Slovakian imports could face 
short-run difficulties. However, in the long run, it is expected that 
such firms would adjust their product mix in order to compete 
effectively.

[[Page 42474]]



                   Table 1.--U.S. Exports of Poultry and Pork Products to Slovakia, 1994-2000
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                                                                                               Average price per
                     Calendar year                        Quantity (tons)         Value               ton
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Poultry:
    1994...............................................                283           $354,000           $1250.88
    1995...............................................                 22             20,000             909.09
    1996...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    1997...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    1998...............................................                 68             68,000            1000.00
    1999...............................................                 24             14,000             583.30
    2000...............................................                 69             55,000             797.10
Pork:
    1994...............................................                 38             39,480            1038.95
    1995...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    1996...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    1997...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    1998...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    1999...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
    2000...............................................                  0               0.00                NA.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Effect on Small Entities

    The Administrator, FSIS, has made an initial determination that 
this proposed rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial 
number of small entities, as defined by the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). This proposed rule would add Slovakia to the 
list of countries eligible to export meat and meat products to the 
United States. Currently, only one establishment in Slovakia has 
applied for USDA Meat Plant Certification for Export. This 
establishment plans to export approximately 520 tons of non-heat 
treated shelf stable meat products and non-shelf stable cooked meat 
products to the United States per year. The volume of trade stimulated 
by this rule would be very small, and, as previously mentioned, is not 
likely to have much of an effect on supply and prices. Therefore, this 
proposed rule is not expected to have a significant impact on small 
domestic entities that produce these types of products.

Paperwork Requirements

    No new paperwork requirements are associated with this proposed 
rule. A foreign country that wants to export meat products to the 
United States is required to provide information to FSIS to certify 
that its inspection system provides standards equivalent to those of 
the United States and that the legal authority for the system and its 
implementing regulations are equivalent to those of the United States 
before it may start exporting such product to the United States. FSIS 
collects this information one time only. FSIS gave Slovakia 
questionnaires asking for detailed information about the country's 
inspection practices and procedures to assist the country in organizing 
its materials. This information collection was approved under OMB 
number 0583-0094. This proposed rule contains no other paperwork 
requirements.

Public Notification and Request for Data

    FSIS requests information regarding the impact of this proposed 
rule on minorities, women, and persons with disabilities, including 
information on the number of minority-owned meat and poultry 
establishments, the makeup of establishment workforces, and the 
communities served by official establishments. Public involvement in 
all segments of rulemaking and policy development are important. 
Consequently, in an effort to better ensure that minorities, women, and 
persons with disabilities are aware of this proposed rule and are 
informed about the mechanism for providing their comments, FSIS will 
announce it and provide copies of this Federal Register publication in 
the FSIS Constituent Update. FSIS provides a weekly FSIS Constituent 
Update, which is communicated via fax to over 300 organizations and 
individuals. In addition, the update is available on line through the 
FSIS web page located at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/
leaving.cgi?from= leavingFR.html&log= linklog&to= http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov. The update is used to provide information regarding 
FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS 
public meetings, recalls, and any other types of information that could 
affect or would be of interest to our constituents/stakeholders. The 
constituent fax list consists of industry, trade, and farm groups, 
consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, scientific 
professionals, and other individuals that have requested to be 
included. Through these various channels, FSIS is able to provide 
information to a much broader, more diverse audience. For more 
information and to be added to the constituent fax list, fax your 
request to the Congressional and Public Affairs Office, at (202) 720-
5704.

List of Subjects in 9 CFR Part 327

    Imports, Meat and meat products.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, FSIS is proposing to amend 
9 CFR part 327 as follows:

PART 327--IMPORTED PRODUCTS

    1. The authority citation for part 327 continues to read as 
follows:

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


Sec. 327.2  [Amended]

    2. Section 327.2 is amended by adding ``Slovakia'' in alphabetical 
order to the list of countries in paragraph (b).

    Done at Washington, DC, on: August 7, 2001.
Thomas J. Billy,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 01-20098 Filed 8-10-01; 8:45 am]
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