USDA launches $500 million grant program for small meat processors


USDA launches $500 million grant program for small meat processors

USDA has announced that $500 million are available for small meat processers to help increase market options for farmers and ranchers.

Speaking in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the funds will help expand processing capacity and make markets more accessible, fair and resilient, “I think it sends a strong message to those who are currently in the business that they’re not necessarily going to have the kind of monopoly they’ve had in the past and that they need to be sensitive to the needs of producers.”

The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan in the form of grants and guaranteed loans.  USDA is seeking input from industry stakeholders on how to build the program and expects funds to be available this fall.

Part of the announcement includes $150 million to strengthen small and very small existing processors who battle volatility in the markets and unexpected costs.

Vilsack said the program is one way to enhance farm income, “Create more processing capacity, you create more competition, and the reality is, that competition is going to benefit producers. Folks will tell you these facilities can’t be built in a day, but we can expand existing facilities and we can start the process of building new facilities, and there’s no question the demand is there.”

Vilsack says the investment USDA is making in processing capacity along with revising the Packers and Stockyards Act and defining Product of the USA labels are several ways to ‘level the playing field’ for producers.