Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will hold two public meetings on proposed regulations allowing small, state-inspected establishments to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce. The announcement will implement a directive of the 2008 Farm Bill and is one component of USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity.

“Restoring the link between consumers and local producers will not only open new income opportunities for small farmers and generate wealth that will stay in rural communities, it will also expand access to healthy, fresh, and locally produced food.," says Merrigan. "These meetings will help ensure that the proposed regulations successfully open doors for small meat and poultry establishments to provide safe products to their communities."

The meetings will be held by teleconference and will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule published on September 15, 2009. The first teleconference will be held on October 27, 2009, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT and the second will be held on November 5, 2009, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST.

Pre-registration is required to participate in these meetings. Information about the meetings, including how to register and the agenda will be made available for viewing on the FSIS Web site.

Call-in information will be provided via e-mail to pre-registered participants. Comments on this voluntary cooperative program may also be submitted on or before November 16, 2009, using either the Federal eRulemaking Portal, or by mail. Send any mail to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 2-2127 GoergeWashingtonCarverCenter,

5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Beltsville, MD20705
, MAILSTOP 5272. All comments must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2008-0027. Comments will be available for viewing on the FSIS Web site