Vilsack to announce $223M in grant, loans for meat, poultry processing
|In Omaha, Neb., today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce $223 million in grants and loans to expand meat and poultry processing capacity and to address supply chain problems.|
The projects are divided among $73 million in 21 grants through the first round of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP), $75 million for eight projects through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, and $75 million for four meat and poultry-related projects through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan program.
Greater Omaha Packing in Omaha, where Vilsack will make the announcement today, “will open new opportunities for cattle producers by expanding their beef processing capacity by 700 head per day. The project will also support an additional 275 jobs,” USDA said.
Other entities throughout the country are listed in a chart released by USDA.
Vilsack said USDA had received 300 applications for the programs and deemed 40 worthy of review.
These announcements support the Biden-Harris administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain, which dedicates resources to expand independent processing capacity, USDA said.
“Since President Biden laid out a commitment at the start of this year, USDA has worked 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,” Vilsack said in a news release.
“By jump starting independent processing projects and increasing processing capacity, these investments create more opportunities for farmers and ranchers to get a fair price, while strengthening supply chains, delivering more food produced closer to home for families, expanding economic opportunity, and creating jobs in rural America,” he added.
On a call to reporters, Vilsack was asked about community objections to meat and poultry plants, about environmental considerations, and the availability of labor.
Vilsack said that part of the evaluation criteria that was considered was community impact and support and that there had been an environmental analysis as part of the review.
Applicants also had to attest that they would create good paying jobs and that they believe they can find the workers for the plants. Vilsack noted that most of the plants would be small and therefore not have to deal with the labor shortages that big plants have had to endure.
Asked repeatedly about the possibility that big meat and poultry companies would buy up these small plants, Vilsack and Karama Neal, the administrator for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, a division of the Rural Development mission area, who is in charge of the program, said that if the plants are to be sold USDA must be notified and that USDA would attempt to provide additional financing if that were needed.
Vilsack added, however, that USDA has no plans to buy any of the plants.
Today’s announcement is the first round of funding made available through Phase I of MPEPP, USDA said. Additional announcements are expected in the coming weeks. USDA will also soon begin taking applications for a new phase to deploy an additional $225 million, for a total of up to $375 million, to provide gap financing for independent processing plant projects that fill a demonstrated need for more diversified processing capacity.
The Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) provides grant funding to nonprofit intermediary lenders who finance — or plan to finance — the start-up, expansion, or operation of slaughter, or other processing of meat and poultry.
The objective of the MPILP is to strengthen the financing system for independent meat processors, and to create a more resilient, diverse, and secure U.S. food supply chain. In the first round of MPILP, $75 million was awarded to eight lenders in seven states. Applications for the second cycle ($125 million) are being accepted and are due Dec. 31.
Through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan program (FSCGLP), USDA partners with lenders to guarantee loans to help eligible entities expand meat and poultry processing capacity and strengthen the U.S. food supply chain. Lenders provide the loans to eligible cooperatives, corporations, for profits, nonprofits, Tribal communities, public bodies and people in rural and urban areas.
Since the FSCGLP was launched in December 2021, more than $250 million in loans have been guaranteed for projects in the middle of the food supply chain, USDA said. Four of these, announced today and totaling more than $75 million, are for meat and poultry processing businesses.
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