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By TIMOTHY EGGERT
A half-dozen Illinois-based meat and poultry processors will split $1.2 million in federal funds to upgrade and expand their operations under the latest round of a USDA grant program.
The six businesses — Harvester Meat Company in Canton; Paris Frozen Foods Inc. in Hillsboro; Salt and Strings Butchery in Louisville; Love Family Enterprises Inc. in Mattoon; Miller’s Meat Market in Red Bud; and Legacy Meats LLC in Sumner — will each receive $200,000.
The grants are part of a larger $21.9 million awarded Wednesday to 111 projects across 37 states through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant Program (MPIRG).
Launched in 2021, the program to date has awarded $54.6 million to 278 livestock producers, cooperatives and commercial farm businesses to cover costs for improvements to processing facilities to reach a Federal Grant of Inspection.
It ultimately aims to improve meat and processing capacity and efficiency and increase access to slaughter or processing facilities for smaller farms and ranches.
“These grants are one part of USDA’s Meat and Poultry Supply Chain initiatives and will contribute to our efforts to transform our food system,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
The MPIRG funding dovetails with other major investments USDA has previewed or rolled out this year to expand independent processing facilities and boost competition within the meatpacking industry.
Among those are at least $150 million in grants to be distributed through the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) to fund construction of new facilities and expansion and upgrades to existing facilities.
Vilsack at the 2022 Agriculture Outlook Forum in February said the department is especially looking to award those MPPEP grants to projects that “are focused and will provide benefits to small farms and ranches and new and beginning farmers and for veterans and historically underserved producers.”
He also said another $500 million in loans and grants under MPPEP would be offered this summer, although that announcement has yet to be made.
Another $40 million has been directed to workforce development programs that support workforce training at community, junior and technical colleges that offer programs for meat and poultry processing, while $25 million has gone to provide technical assistance for MPPEP and MPIRG.
And this May USDA announced it would use $200 million to launch the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) and provide $25 million for workforce training.
That program aims to finance start-up and expansion costs for independent meat and poultry processors, with grants up to $15 million for recipients to start a revolving loan fund to pay for capacity expansion.
This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.