WASHINGTON – Several US House members sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 30 supporting efforts to assist support small and regional meat processors.
The bipartisan group of 30 representatives lauded Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent announcement of $500 million investment in July toward expanding US meat processing capacity, but said more could be done.
“For some farmers and ranchers right now, slaughter and processing dates must be booked up to two years in advance. Meanwhile, small processors continue to struggle with barriers to expansion like a lack of capital or financing options, workforce shortages, and an increasingly complex regulatory structure,” the letter said. “We encourage USDA to make investments that will provide leverage for producers at all levels of the supply chain.”
Later in the letter, the members who signed the letter requested that the Biden Administration look at three ways to increase competitiveness for meat processors.
First, the money proposed by the USDA should ensure small and regional meat and poultry processors can access the grant fund necessary to expand their infrastructure, increase productivity and explore new technologies to support and grow their businesses.
Next, the letter asked that the USDA provide more generous and accessible financing options for meat and poultry processes, plus immediately expand shackle space and capacity.
Finally, other grants could be used to help train new workers, which the letter said would help create jobs, improve local and regional markets, improve farm incomes, address labor challenges and increase food system resilience.
The members’ initiative is supported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation.