RALEIGH, NC. — Legislators in North Carolina recently announced a new bill that would offer $25 million grants to small and independent processors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for the grants, which would be allocated from the federal CARES Act. House Bill 1201 was sponsored by Republican representatives Jeffery Elmore and Julia Howard.

The bill stated that the ongoing health crisis “resulted in serious and substantial impacts on the food supply chain.” The bill addressed the bottlenecks and lack of capacity at many small and independent meat processors and how the pandemic has had a major negative impact on their ability to process meat.

Grants should be used only for “facility expansion, fixtures, on-site job training, or equipment that will expand animal throughput, processing capacity, the amount or type of products produced or processing speed.”

Processing plants would be required to use grants to contract with independent livestock producers to process animals owned by producers.

Another requirement of the bill is all facilities that receive funding must be inspected by the USDA or be state-inspected facilities. 

The bill does not specify if the money can be used to implement in-plant, worker-safety precautions at facilities.