WASHINGTON — On Jan. 5, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of $9.6 million from the Biden-Harris administration to help strengthen the nation’s meat supply.

“USDA is putting the needs of farmers, ranchers and consumers at the forefront of the Biden-Harris administration’s work to strengthen the resiliency of America’s food supply chain while promoting competition,” Vilsack said. “USDA has undertaken a department-wide approach to coordinate ways to deliver more opportunities and fairer prices for producers, to give people access to healthier foods, eliminate bottlenecks in the food supply chain and ultimately lower prices for consumers.”

The announced funds are being distributed as loans and grants to 25 independent meat processing businesses. Two operations — Jordan’s Meat Market LLC, Le Mars, Iowa, and Bottomland Prime LLC, Wolfforth, Texas — are receiving loans through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program, which total $5.7 million.

The 23 grants given through the Value Added Producer Grant program total $3.9 million.

“This program essentially works with producers to give them an opportunity to not only benefit from the production of a particular agricultural commodity but also the process of that,” Vilsack said during a press call.

Examples of the funded projects include the following:

  • Bottomland Prime LLC will use a $4.95 million Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan to acquire and expand Edes Custom Meats, a cattle meat processing and retail outlet in Amarillo, Texas. Bottomland Prime projects its business will include custom USDA-inspected processing for local producers and specialty markets, as well as local retail sales of beef cuts, sausage, jerky, pork and lamb. In addition, it will include wholesale markets through different convenience stores and cold storage services.
  • Gillispie’s County Line Farm LLC, Kents Store, Va., is receiving a $44,000 Value Added Producer Grant to support the processing of pasture-raised chickens, beef cattle and hogs into individually cut and processed poultry, beef and pork products. Gillispie’s also plans to hire new employees to assist with processing and sales labor and expand its marketing activities to reach a larger customer base.
  • Todd Family Meats, Big Timber, Mont., is receiving a $48,173 Value Added Producer Grant to increase its production of packaged beef and lamb to meet growing demand. The family-owned company also will use the funds for marketing, packaging and processing.

“The point of this is that we’re looking at a creative, comprehensive set of opportunities to expand more new and better market opportunities for meat and poultry,” Vilsack said. “We’re going to do this over the next several months as we utilize American Rescue Plan resources.”

Vilsack anticipated that during 2023 a companion program will focus on non-meat and poultry processing. 

“This is an opportunity for us to continue to look for ways to help small and mid-zed family operations and ranching operations to have additional market opportunities that will create more income for farmers, more choice for consumers and more jobs in rural areas,” he said.

Vilsack also noted that there is a “second tranche of resources” that could be made available later in the year but did not provide details. 

The recent announcement from the USDA follows an active year for the agency in supporting meat processors nationwide.

Earlier in 2022, USDA announced a first round of more than $223 million in grants and loans toward growing competition and expanding meat and poultry processing capacity in the United States. USDA spread this 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).