The US Department of Agriculture continues to make significant investments in expanding the US meat and poultry processing infrastructure.

During the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the agency would fund more than $12 million to expand independent processing capacity in Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota using an expansion program grant.

For Ohio, International Food Solutions received more than $9.5 million to redevelop and expand a vacant building in Cleveland to turn it into a plant. The expansion will include cold and dry storage and two processing lines.

The plant expects to have the capacity to process 60 million lbs of poultry and create 227 jobs. International Food Solutions is a woman- and minority-owned business that has produced thousands of prepared meals for K-12 students receiving free and reduced-price school meals.

In Michigan, grower-owned cooperative Michigan Turkey Producers will receive more than $1.5 million to upgrade the hot water system, wastewater treatment facilities and refrigerated trailers at its plant in Grand Rapids. The agency said that with recent automation upgrades and continuing expansion. The plant can add a shift and double its processing capacity to 10 million turkeys annually. The additional capacity also will allow the plant to provide backup for other facilities of similar size in neighboring states.

Finally, Benson + Turner Foods Inc., based in Waubun, Minn., will receive $962,954 to build a 6,788 square-foot cattle and hog processing plant on the White Earth Indian Reservation. The grant will help the company use locally grown livestock and provide new opportunities for producers to market their products by providing USDA-certified processing.

USDA said these projects were in addition to the first round of funding announced last November which provided $74 million to 22 grant projects as part of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP).

Vilsack also announced an investment of $9.6 million in loans and grants to 25 independent meat processing businesses that he said would help strengthen the nation’s meat supply.

“USDA is putting the needs of farmers, ranchers and consumers at the forefront of the Biden-Harris administration’s work to strengthen the resiliency of America’s food supply chain while promoting competition,” Vilsack said. “USDA has undertaken a department-wide approach to coordinate ways to deliver more opportunities and fairer prices for producers, to give people access to healthier foods, eliminate bottlenecks in the food supply chain and ultimately lower prices for consumers.”

Two operations — Jordan’s Meat Market LLC, Le Mars, Iowa, and Bottomland Prime LLC, Wolfforth, Texas, — are receiving loans through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program, which total $5.7 million.

The 23 grants given through the Value Added Producer Grant program total $3.9 million.

“This program essentially works with producers to give them an opportunity to not only benefit from the production of a particular agricultural commodity but also the process of that,” Vilsack said during a press call.

Examples of the funded projects include the following:

  • Bottomland Prime LLC will use a $4.95 million Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan to acquire and expand Edes Custom Meats, a cattle meat processing and retail outlet in Amarillo, Texas. Bottomland Prime projects its business will include custom USDA-inspected processing for local producers and specialty markets, as well as local retail sales of beef cuts, sausage, jerky, pork and lamb. In addition, it will include wholesale markets through different convenience stores and cold storage services.
  • Gillispie’s County Line Farm LLC, Kents Store, Va., is receiving a $44,000 Value Added Producer Grant to support the processing of pasture-raised chickens, beef cattle and hogs into individually cut and processed poultry, beef and pork products. Gillispie’s also plans to hire new employees to assist with processing and sales labor and expand its marketing activities to reach a larger customer base.
  • Todd Family Meats, Big Timber, Mont., is receiving a $48,173 Value Added Producer Grant to increase its production of packaged beef and lamb to meet growing demand. The family-owned company also will use the funds for marketing, packaging and processing.

“The point of this is that we’re looking at a creative, comprehensive set of opportunities to expand more new and better market opportunities for meat and poultry,” Vilsack said. “We’re going to do this over the next several months as we utilize American Rescue Plan resources.”

Vilsack anticipated that during 2023 a companion program will focus on non-meat and poultry processing.