USDA adds $55 million in grants to help expand meat and poultry opportunities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $55.2 million competitive grant funding available through the new Meat and Poultry Inspection and Readiness Grant program, in a news release issued on June 21. The program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We are building capacity and increasing economic opportunity for small and midsized meat and poultry processors and producers across the country,” Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “Through MPIRG, meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities can cover the costs for necessary improvements to achieve a federal grant of inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or to operate under a state’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.”

USDA encourages grant applications that focus on improving meat and poultry slaughter and processing capacity and efficiency; developing new and expanding existing markets; increasing capacity and better meeting consumer and producer demand; maintaining strong inspection and food safety standards; obtaining a larger commercial presence; and increasing access to slaughter or processing facilities for smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, and veteran producers. Eligible meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities include commercial businesses, cooperatives, and tribal enterprises.

MPIRG’s Planning for a Federal Grant of Inspection project is for processing facilities currently in operation and are working toward federal inspection. Applicants can be located anywhere in the states and territories. MPIRG’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment Compliance project is only for processing facilities located in states with a Food Safety and Inspection Service CIS program. These states currently include Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. Applicants must be working toward CIS program compliance requirements to operate a state-inspected facility or make a good faith effort toward doing so.

Several farm state lawmakers applauded the move, which has roots that dated back to President Donald Trump with the Requiring Assistance for Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants Act. Congressman Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, said in a news release the move was welcome move and built on actions started in July 2020 with the assistance of former Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, in reference to RAMP-UP Act. U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-KS, and Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, had taken up the companion piece in the Senate.

“Throughout the past year, America’s meat producers and producers have faced unprecedented market challenges. At a time when producers are experiencing increased demand for high-quality meat, meat processors across the United States are racing to increase their capacity to meet the demands of consumers and producers,” Lucas said.”

The program will give processors the tools to become federally inspected facilities, which widens their customer base while maintaining inspection standards, Lucas said. “It will also reduce the financial burden for smaller meat processors, by reducing the high cost of compliance with federal requirements that are barriers to entry and or survival.”

Lucas said the program can help Oklahoma meat processors and other processors across the country. Moran and Klobucher made similar observations about their respective states and the country at large.

“Small meatpackers in Kansas play an important role in providing new markets for livestock producers and meeting a growing, nationwide demand for quality meat,” Moran said. “I encouraged meat and poultry processing facilities in Kansas and across the country that qualify to utilize this program to meet the standards necessary to sell their products across state lines.”

“Follwing the passage of our bipartisan RAMP-UP Act, the USDA now has additional resources to help increase opportunities for local meat processors,” Klobuchar said. “We must continue to help small processors grow and thrive, especially during this period of economic recovery.

Applications must be submitted electronically through by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 2. Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application.

AMS offers webinars for applicants to help walk them through the Request for Application. Additionally, grants management specialists are standing by to answer any incoming questions and emails during regular business hours. For more information about grant eligibility and program requirements, email [email protected].

The USDA’s announcement is part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative, a commitment to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the food system, support food production, improved processing, investments in distribution and aggregation and market opportunities.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].