Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig toured Ulrich’s Meat Market and In’t Veld’s Meat Market & Opa’s Deli Friday morning, announcing a new program that will create markets for Iowa meat products.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has applied for a Cooperative Interstate Shipment agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection service. The program will allow state-inspected meat processors to distribute products to other states.

To qualify for the program, meat processors must have fewer than 25 full-time employees and comply with all federal facility, sanitation and food safety regulations. Smaller meat processors will still be inspected by the state but will earn a USDA stamp to sell their products outside state lines.

“One of my key initiatives as Secretary is to try to expand the markets for Iowa producers,” said Naig. “For example, if Ulrich’s is selling more product outside of the state of Iowa, they’re buying more meat from Iowa producers. That’s what we’re really trying to expand.”

The expansion would lead to hiring more local employees to package and make meat products, ultimately supporting local farms and businesses. According to a study by David Swenson at the Iowa State University Department of Economics, Iowa’s small meat processors generate $1.5 million in total economic output and $596,000 in labor income. They also generate about 15 jobs for every $1 million in sales.

Currently, the state of Iowa has approximately 250 licensed meat processors, and 150 of them are state-inspected. According to Naig, about 70 meat processors currently qualify for the program, and about 20 are interested. The changes would likely go into effect in 2020.

“I think these folks could easily be selling product outside the state of Iowa,” said Naig. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to get that approval.”