KANSAS CITY, MO. – Acting on a directive from the Biden-Harris administration, the US Department of Agriculture is offering more than $223 million in grants and loans toward growing competition and expanding meat and poultry processing capacity in the United States.
USDA spread the first round of funding, a total of $73 million, across 21 grant projects in 19 states as part of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP). The government is investing an additional $75 million for eight projects through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP), as well as more than $75 million for four meat and poultry-related projects through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan program (FSCGLP).
Through investments in small- and medium-size processors, the government seeks to strengthen local and regional food systems, reduce barriers to processing, create jobs and lower costs for consumers by expanding their options for meat and poultry products.
“At USDA, we have been focused on developing more markets for our producers by expanding capacity and competition,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a conference call with journalists to discuss the programs. “This required a comprehensive approach, it required new programs that would provide resources toward expanding capacity and markets, provide resources for strengthening the supply chain between the farmer and the consumer and making sure there was the availability of credit when the opportunity or circumstances required it.”
Examples of meat and poultry processors participating in the program include:
Montana Premium Processing Cooperative (MPPC), a start-up cooperative, created in partnership with the Montana Farmers Union and Farmers Union Industries, will use MPPEP funds to provide independent producers in Montana with an option for a local USDA inspected meat processing facility in an area that is currently without federally inspected processing.
Vermont Livestock Slaughter & Processing, Ferrisburgh, Vt., will use MPPEP investment, to modernize their multi-species processing facility, potentially tripling their throughput.
Leakesville, Miss.-based Cutting Edge Meat Company plans to significantly increase processing capacity and shorten a six-month backlog for processing currently facing producers. Cutting Edge provides pork and beef processing for producers in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida.
Greater Omaha Packing in Omaha, Neb., will provide new opportunities for cattle producers by expanding their beef processing capacity by 700 head per day. The project will also support an additional 275 jobs.
Iowa-based Pure Prairie Farms recently purchased a shuttered poultry plant in Charles City, Iowa, with plans to restart operations in the fall of 2022. Pure Prairie is a group of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota family chicken farmers that will provide birds for the plant.
And family-owned New Stockton Poultry in Stockton, Calif., sources and processes specialty chickens to meet demand within a variety of immigrant and other communities.
USDA will soon be taking applications for a new phase to deploy an additional $225 million, for a total of up to $375 million, to provide gap financing for independent processing plant projects that fill a demonstrated need for more diversified processing capacity.
“We think it’s going to expand capacity in beef, pork and mixed processing by over 500,000 per year,” Vilsack said. “We think it will expand capacity in poultry by 34 million birds per year.
“We anticipate and expect over 1,100 jobs be created on an ongoing operational basis, and that doesn’t include the construction jobs that will go as a result of the expansion and construction of new facilities.”
He added that USDA expects to announce additional projects in the first round of funding in December or early 2023.
“I think this is a good day for producers, a good day for those interested in working in these facilities, a good day for these communities that will benefit and a good day for consumers, and we’re looking forward to these projects taking hold and creating new opportunity, new choices for both producers and consumers.”