USDA Announces Grants to Expand Poultry Processing

Small farms, workforce training included. Some applications due this May.

USDA Announces Grants to Expand Poultry Processing

The Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan took note of the supply chain issues that affected food supplies during Covid. To improve food and agricultural supply chain resilience, the bill includes $1 billion to support independent processors. The USDA’s Rural Development department, https://www.rd.usda.gov/, is handling the programs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses of our supply chain, including what can happen when we rely on only a few companies and processing plants to keep our country fed,” Rep. Salud Carbajal of California’s 24th District said.

Processing has always been the bottleneck to successful small poultry producers. Standard and heritage breed poultry don’t conform to the rigid size requirements of commercial processors. Small batches of poultry are not economic to process, and resulting costs raise consumer retail price.

“Right now, poultry producers face limited options and long supply chains to bring their products to American kitchen tables,” Rep. Carbajal said. “If you raise chickens in the Central Coast, you have to drive for hours to reach a processor before you can even start to think about revenue. By investing in improving processor availability, we improve competition in our meat and poultry markets – which in turn drives down prices for American consumers.”

Eggs disappeared from grocery shelves early in 2020. Networks of small flock keepers connected with each other to provide eggs to friends who didn’t have their own chickens, and others. Backyard Poultry chronicled that saga in Small is the Next Big Thing in 2021.

Mobile processing units that come to the farm are eligible for these programs. Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network offers advice on what’s required, and a list of currently available mobile processors.

Mobile poultry processing unit constructed by Mike Badger. Photo courtesy: Mike Badger.

Awareness of the frailties in the system gives us a chance to remedy them, so we don’t go through this again. These programs aim to identify where the system failed, and what it needs to be strong and resilient. Check the categories and see whether your farm’s processing can benefit from one of these programs.

$150 million will go toward Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) grants of up to $25 million each, to expand processing capacity through improvements such as building new facilities, expanding existing ones, buying new equipment, and offsetting costs associated with becoming an inspected facility. No minimum, maximum $25 million. Applications are due May 11, 2022. Full information on the website.

Another $23.6 million in grants is available to existing meat and poultry processing facilities, to expand their facilities, develop new markets, and increase access to processing facilities for small farms and ranches. New and beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, veteran producers, and/or underserved communities are eligible. Applications are due by May 24, 2022.

$40 million will be targeted grants to support workforce training at community and technical colleges targeted specifically for meat and poultry processing through a Request for Applications in April 2022. Sign up for notifications of funding opportunities on the NIFA website.

Build Back Better includes $100 million for the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program. The program works through local private lenders. Businesses in the middle of the food supply chain, in activities such as aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storage, transportation, wholesale, or distribution of food. More information and instructions on how to apply on the website.  

“The American Rescue Plan funds that make these grants possible will make a real difference, both for our California farmers and producers and for the families around the world that enjoy their goods,” Rep. Carbajal said. “And as the son of a farmworker and a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am proud of my vote that enable these investments.”

Not sure where your operation fits in, or how to apply? More information and advice are available here. More ideas for projects that qualify are in the lists of previous grants awarded are available here

Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, who represents middle and southwest Georgia, offers help on his website. He is Chairman of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Tynesha Boomer, his Senior Ag Policy Advisor in the Washington, D.C. office, helped provide information to Backyard Poultry magazine. 

Your Congressional representative can help you navigate the process. Find Your Representative can connect you with the person elected to help your district.

“When Democrats say we have solutions to fight inflation and supply chain disruptions, this funding is one of the fixes we’re talking about,” said Rep. Carbajal.

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