With continued support, processors look to new opportunities

Farm and Food

By Johnathan Hladik, former policy director

As the demand for local foods grows, small- and mid-sized meat and poultry processors are looking to make investments to expand their capacity, create new markets for their product, and train the next generation of workers. 

These efforts, which come as many in the industry work to regain their footing after a tumultuous two years, are not going unnoticed and continue to receive support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). 

Through its Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant Program, AMS has awarded $54.6 million in grants to processing facilities across the country. The latest round of funding—$21.9 million—will assist 111 processors in 37 states in updating and purchasing new equipment, expanding their facilities, obtaining a Federal Grant of Inspection, or qualifying for a state’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment program to ship products across state lines and develop new markets. 

Additionally the grant recipients will have access to resources through the Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity Technical Assistance Program. Established in March 2022, the program connects participants to a nationwide network of resources to support their project development. The technical assistance program also includes resources on workforce development.  

While the pandemic exposed the vulnerability of our food system, the lack of competition in the marketplace has long been an issue. By providing grants, loans, and technical assistance to smaller facilities, the USDA can address concentration within the industry and create competitive options so farmers, ranchers, and consumers have access to better choices and fairer prices.  

We applaud the administration’s continued commitment to build capacity and increasing economic opportunity for our nation’s small- and mid-sized meat and poultry producers. Their support is valuable in keeping this important piece of our rural economy going.