DES MOINES – Meat and poultry processors of all sizes face tough choices for growing their businesses to meet the evolving demands of their customers and consumers. But strategic decisions about affordable facility upgrades and mitigating labor shortages weigh especially on small processors that lack the resources to scale their operations.

That’s why state lawmakers in Iowa decided to step in and help small processors overcome these obstacles and others by passing House File 857, which charged the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship with establishing a task force to study workforce issues in the meat processing industry. The legislation also creates a fund to award financial assistance to eligible businesses for specific projects such as mobile slaughter, expanding or refurbishing an existing state- or federally inspected small-scale meat processing business or to establish a new facility, or renting buildings, refrigeration facilities, freezer facilities or other equipment, among other activities.

The task force will study the feasibility of establishing an artisanal butchery program at a community college or university. Members also will consider apprenticeship and internship opportunities, employment outlook for graduates and potential program enrollment and costs. The task force will submit a report with findings and potential recommendations to the Iowa General Assembly by the end of 2020.

“When I visit meat lockers across Iowa throughout the year, I typically hear about two major challenges they face: difficulty affording upgrades to grow their businesses and a lack of skilled workers that hampers their ability to increase processing capacity,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “I’m proud that Iowa is taking a multi-pronged approach to tackling these issues and excited to lead the Artisanal Butchery task force to figure out the best path forward to address our locker’s workforce challenges. We have assembled a top-tier group of folks who bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the table, and I look forward to what this group comes up with.”

Naig recently announced members appointed to the committee called the Artisanal Butchery Task Force which will include:

•    Secretary Mike Naig (Chair), Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

•    Jerry Roorda, In’t Veld’s Meat Market

•    Ty Gustafson, Story City Locker

•    Baili Maurer, Edgewood Locker

•    Dan Julin, Arcadia Meats

•    Dave Walter, Corning Meat Processing

•    Kent Wiese, Amend’s Packing Company

•    Ned Skoglund, Skoglund Meats

•    Laura Cunningham, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association

•    Steve Kerns, Iowa Pork Producers

•    Fred Long, Iowa Conservation Alliance

•    Dave Grunklee, Hawkeye Community College

•    Dr. Terry Houser, Iowa State Meat Lab

•    Chef John Andres, Iowa Culinary Institute

•    Jeff Cook, Fareway Stores

•    Dr. Kathryn Polking, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

•    Brad Frisvold, Iowa Economic Development Authority

•    Kathy Leggett, Future Ready Iowa

•    Jake Swanson, Governor’s Office