Teresa Hoffman, policy communications associate, email@example.com, 402.687.2100, ext. 1012; Rhea Landholm, brand marketing & communications manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, 402.687.2100 ext 1025
LYONS, NEBRASKA – Seeking to address market disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic, a stimulus package approved Monday by Congress included funds to directly support small-scale meat processors to help them expand and distribute meat across state lines, a decision applauded by Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.
“Congress deserves credit for acknowledging this problem and offering a response,” Hladik said. “Storage and equipment limitations have made it difficult for independent processors to meet growing demand, and we expect this stimulus to help overcome the capital constraints that have been impairing the industry for months.”
As part of the package, $60 million will be available for facility upgrade and planning grants. The bill also requires a report on the availability of financing for new and existing processing capacity and calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with states and detail ways to improve the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.
Announcement of the stimulus package came as Hladik and other supporters have worked with lawmakers to address the backlog created when the country’s largest processing facilities had to close earlier this year because of COVID-19 concerns. At that time, commodity producers flooded local meat lockers with their product and, with already limited reservation space being taken up by large growers, longtime customers had to schedule orders up to two years in advance.
In September, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced the Strengthening Local Processing Act in the House of Representatives and a companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) last week. In addition to establishing a grant program for expansion and inspection costs, the bill included investing in the next generation of small meat processors by offering grants to train small-plant operators and employees.
Hladik is pleased to see portions of the Strengthening Local Processing Act included in the stimulus package.
“Sponsors of this bill took a bipartisan, bicameral approach, and their efforts helped ensure independent processors were part of the conversation when stimulus talks were underway,” Hladik said. “This leadership is a benefit to rural America and something we can be thankful for as we head into a new year.”