July 23, 2021
USDA recently announced over $600 million in future investments to support and increase processing capacity through grants, loans, and technical assistance to address concentration within the meat and poultry sectors, as well as small plant fee relief.
On July 16th, 2021 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice in the Federal Register, seeking public comments on investments and opportunities for meat and poultry processing infrastructure.
This public comment period comes in the wake of USDA’s announcement of $500 million for expanded meat and poultry processing capacity. USDA is seeking input on how to invest an estimated $500 million of American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure, increase capacity, and hasten diversification across the processing industry.
The deadline for submitting comments is Monday, August 30, 11:59 pm EST. Submitting a comment is simple, and we especially encourage farmers and processors to weigh in!
USDA also announced $100 million in fee relief for small and very small meat and poultry slaughter and processing establishments and egg product plants, as part of the COVID-19 relief Congress provided in the American Rescue Plant Act. Interested small plants must fill out a form and submit it to the FSIS inspection personnel in their plant, preferably by August 16, 2021 to ensure a quick process.
Comments are Needed from Farmers and Small Processors
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition strongly encourages small processors and impacted farmers and ranchers to comment on how USDA should invest the $500 million to support their processing needs. Several questions for consideration are included below. NSAC recommends farmers and small processors consider these prompts in their comments and describe how loans, grants, or technical assistance could help your small processing operation. NSAC also encourages all other stakeholders to consider these questions and comment as well, including what conditions should be put into place to ensure equitable practices for any federally funded projects.
-Farmers and Ranchers
Consider Your Financial Investment Needs:
Consider Workforce Needs:
Describe What it Takes to Start a New Facility:
Describe the Demand in your Region
Consider your Training and Educational Needs
Additional Investment is Needed
In the United States, just four companies represent 73 percent of beef processing, 67 percent of pork processing, and 54 percent of chicken processing. This lack of competition in meat and poultry processing leads to higher prices for consumers, lower profits for farmers and small processors, and creates a food supply chain system that is less resilient to the ever increasing number of environmental and economic disasters. NSAC is encouraged by USDA’s acknowledgement that investments in competition can help address some of these issues and commends the Biden Administration’s recent executive order promoting fair competition in the U.S. economy.
The recent COVID-19 crisis also revealed a lack of resilience in the meat and poultry supply chains. To address these issues, NSAC encourages USDA to prioritize funding that will ensure increased support for small-and mid-sized slaughter and processing capacity to build resilience and further support for pasture-raised livestock and poultry. We recommend small processors, farmers and ranchers, and advocates, include the following talking points in their comments to USDA:
1. USDA should create a small plant grant program for small-scale federally inspected plants, to expand and update their infrastructure and equipment to increase their processing capacity. The grant program could also fund new plants in areas where there is an unmet need that will ensure the new plant is financially stable.
2. Due to the workforce shortages in the small meat sector, USDA should fund technical assistance and support for small processors and their employees.
3. USDA should prioritize funding for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color owned businesses, and plants that would increase farmer and rancher access to animal slaughter and processing options within a 200 mile radius.
4. Because small processors are not always able to access sufficient capital for investments, USDA should implement a direct loan program to allow facilities to expand and serve more customers.
A more comprehensive look at NSAC’s recommendations for meat and poultry processing infrastructure and for overall supply chain reform can be found here.
This is an important opportunity to shape the future of USDA programming and how it can build resilience in our food chains and support local farmers and ranchers. Make sure to submit comments by August 30th, 11:59 EST.