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Feds giving $500 million to boost US meat processing capacity

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 20:00:36-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA (KMTV) — The meat processing industry in the United States is getting a boost, with the federal government hoping it’ll help our farmers and ranchers raising cattle, chickens and pigs.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Friday in Council Bluffs, that the federal government will be giving $500 million to smaller meat processing facilities.

He hopes that money allows farmers and ranchers to not have to sell to some of the biggest processing companies, at a loss.

“Those family farmers want an opportunity to farm. But they find themselves to having to have other additional income in order to be able to keep the farm,” said Vilsack.

Vilsack pointed to a stat that shows 90% of family farmers in the country do not make most of their income off of farming.

To aid the problem, he’s targeting the meat processing industry which is currently controlled by a few major companies including JBS, Tyson and Cargill.

The plan infuses $500 million into grants, loans and tech assistance for those seeking to build or expand a meat processing facility in the country.

He was joined by southwest Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne, who wants more Iowans staying on their farms.

“What we need right now is a resurgence of opportunity for states like Iowa,” said Axne.

Vilsack also said more processors means more price transparency and will shorten the distance food will travel before it goes on kitchen tables.

“And it will clearly create a much more resilient, locally and regionally driven food system that will be able to withstand future disruptions like we had recently with the pandemic,” said Vilsack.

The money is coming from the American Rescue Plan, the stimulus package passed earlier this year.

The specific details on how the money will be distributed and who qualifies are still underway, and the USDA is seeking public input.

President of the Nebraska Cattlemen Bill Rhea, said he still wants to know more, but anytime more money goes into meat processing, it’s a good thing.

“It’s always a struggle, coming up with the amount of money it takes to build these facilities. Anything we can do to help that, it’ll be good for the processing industry,” said Rhea.

At least one new facility is already coming to the area. Vilsack was alongside Cattlemen’s Heritage for an announcement that a meat processing facility is coming to southwest Iowa.

“This is going to create new and better markets for the cattle industry in this region,” said Vilsack.

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