WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture announced that it would invest $59 million in more facilities to increase independent meat and poultry processing capacity.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding while touring the Harrisonburg, Va., Farmer Focus organic chicken processing facility planning a $17.8 million expansion.
“For too long, American farmers and ranchers have been asked to produce more to meet increasing demand across the country and around the world, while they and the rural communities they come from have struggled to see their fair share of the benefits,” Vilsack said. “Through investments like those I’m announcing today, USDA will continue to work tirelessly to give farmers and ranchers a fair chance to compete in the marketplace, which in turn helps lower food costs for the American people.”
The Farmer Focus plant will receive $3.6 million that will be used for equipment purchase, new conveyor lines, building and site modifications and a new wastewater treatment system. USDA said the investment would help the company double its processing capacity to 630,000 birds per week. The expansion will help create 300 jobs.
“The programs and money the Biden-Harris administration is committing can make a huge difference in providing opportunities to independent processors like Farmer Focus so we can build a more competitive meat industry and strong generational family farms while providing our consumers with the highest quality organic and humane certified chicken,” said Corwin Heatwole, founding farmer and chief executive officer of Farmer Focus. “Just a little over a year ago, I was invited to a White House Round Table where I had the unique opportunity to share my thoughts directly with President Biden and Secretary Vilsack on ways to increase competition within the meat industry.”
MEAT+POULTRY recently featured Farmer Focus’ new 78,000-square-foot packaging plant within a mile of the existing processing facility.
Other money allocated to processors in the United States included a $25 million grant for Riverbend Meats LLC in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to build a new beef processing plant. According to the agency, the funding would also include custom equipment and the installation of 9 miles of mainline gas pipe. The new facility would also double the plant’s capacity from 300 to 600 cattle daily.
Prestage Farms of South Carolina LLC will receive nearly $25 million to purchase equipment and pay for associated operating expenses at its poultry processing plant. The facility in Kershaw County will be able to process 8 million birds per year and create 292 jobs.
In South Dakota, CNF Enterprises plans to construct a new 30,000-square-foot processing facility in New Underwood, SD. USDA plans to invest $3.3 million in the project which would process 4,000 head per year, including beef, pork, lamb and buffalo, with custom USDA inspection.
Holly Poultry LLC in Baltimore, Md., will receive about $2 million to purchase equipment for upgrades and expansions at its facility. The project will add 200 jobs by 2025 and increase processing capacity by 2 million lbs of poultry per week.
Last November, USDA announced the first round of more than $223 million in grants and loans as part of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP). USDA distributed the first round of funding, a total of $73 million, across 21 grant projects in 19 states as part of the program.
The agency later invested an additional $75 million for eight projects through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) and more than $75 million for four meat and poultry-related projects through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan program (FSCGLP).