The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) recently submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging them to open applications for a grant program to help local meat processors. The legislation, authorized by Congress in December, set funding aside to improve capacity at local meat lockers, but CFRA says the agency has been slow to respond.
In a letter to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the Center asks that applications be made available soon as possible and that processors designated as “smaller” and “very small” receive preference.
“Many of us have changed the way we purchase and prepare our food over the past 12 months,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs. “Families now spend more time cooking at home. We are learning that local meat provides a better and more affordable alternative to the big box store.”
While the surge in demand has created a good problem for local meat lockers, Hladik said many of the facilities simply do not have space or equipment to keep up, leaving family farms in the growing direct sales industry without a crucial partner.
In the letter, CFRA also asks USDA leadership to prioritize supporting small meat processors looking to improve and expand their infrastructure, which Hladik said is vital in addressing bottlenecks in local processing and encouraging the growth of rural economies, as well as make funding available to entrepreneurs seeking to open a new small facility.
Additionally, they support USDA implementing grants of up to $500,000 to cover the costs of such expansion efforts.