WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an additional $100 million of loan guarantees on top of the existing investment throughout the US supply chain including the meat and poultry sector.

The agency said the added funding would help deliver more opportunities and fairer prices for farmers and address bottlenecks in the food supply chain.

“COVID-19 revealed vulnerabilities in our food system. As we build back better, we must create more, better and fairer markets that enhance competition and create economic opportunity across America’s agriculture and food supply chains,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This is another meaningful step in our efforts to act on lessons from COVID-19 to build a food system that is fair, competitive, distributed and resilient where a greater share of the food dollar goes to those growing, harvesting, processing and preparing our food.”

The money for these loans will come from the American Rescue Plan Act. In July 2021, the USDA said it planned to invest $500 million in funds to expand meat and poultry processing capacity. The agency also announced more than $150 million for existing small and very small processing facilities to help them weather COVID-19 and stay competitive in the marketplace.

During a media teleconference on Oct. 4, Vilsack said $55 million in grants have already been used to improve existing small plants since the July USDA announcement. He also said the agency received around 250 applications that are under review for $100 million in grants for meat and poultry processing facilities.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) shared its backing of the latest loan guarantees.

“Our number one goal at NCBA continues to be opening up new opportunities for cattle producers to be profitable,” said Ethan Lane, vice president of governmental affairs for NCBA. “The pandemic accentuated a number of vulnerabilities within our supply chains – chiefly the choke point at the meatpacking sector which has resulted in unsustainable prices for cattle producers and increased the cost of beef for consumers. Today’s announcement is another step toward returning stability to the markets, and NCBA urges USDA to announce eligibility requirements and application instructions as quickly as possible.”

USDA said it is planning to announce an eligibility notice soon on requirements for loan applications. The agency is hosting a lender training webinar on Oct. 14 to inform rural lenders, community development financial institutions, food sector lenders and community lenders about how they can become approved to participate in this program. Additionally, USDA is planning a forum for financing entities aligned with the announcement of the eligibility and application requirements.