USDA to grant $150M to expand meat, poultry processing

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $215 million in grants and other support to enhance the U.S. food supply chain.

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Funding is part of a $215 million initiative aimed at enhancing the US food supply chain

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide US$150 million in grant money for projects to expand meat and poultry processing capacity, facilities and equipment, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on February 24 during the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Applications are being accepted for US$25 million grants that can be used for construction, expansion of additional capacity and equipping additional capacity, Vilsack said during the virtual event. Applications are due April 11.

“We’re excited about this opportunity,” he said. “We’re looking for projects that will also benefit small-size farming operations, looking for operations that will help new and beginning farmers, applications that may focus on veteran-owned farming operations and other historically underserved producers. We want to make sure that everyone is able to participate in this new opportunity.”

The US$150 million comes from the American Rescue Plan Act funding available through the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) and is part of a broader US$215 million in grants and other support that Vilsack announced that aim to strengthen the food supply chain and create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas.

“This is an exciting opportunity to expand capacity and competition in an area that I think is incredibly important if we are to have a strong, bright and positive livestock and poultry outlook,” Vilsack said.

Other funding available

An additional US$40 million will come from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to invest in workforce development programs, with the primary investment through competitive grants to support workforce training at community, junior and technical colleges with programs specifically for meat and poultry processing.

Another US$25 million in American Rescue Plan funding will come from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to provide technical assistance “to make sure that we are, in fact, getting information out to those who need it and want it and those who are interested in a project,” Vilsack said, acknowledging that “it may be a little difficult for some to know precisely how to make an application, how to prepare a business plan, how to think about market opportunities.”

This funding will establish partnerships with organizations that will provide technical assistance to MPPEP applicants, recent recipients and future applicants of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant program, and to entities that require general guidance and resources on meat and poultry processing. Of the US$25 million, AMS will utilize US$10 million to implement the first phase of support by establishing an initial technical assistance network and lead coordinator.

Vilsack said he anticipates the USDA will be able to provide an additional US$500 million in the form of grants and loans this summer.

“This is going to be an ongoing continued effort in 2022 to expand capacity and competition,” he said.

USDA will host two informational webinars to provide information on MPPEP. The first, February 28 at 2 p.m. Eastern, will provide an overview of the program. The second, March 7 at 2 p.m. Eastern, will cover application requirements. Registration information for the webinars is available on the MPPEP website.

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