Washington, DC – Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the opening of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) with a round of competitive grants to expand meat processing capacity nationwide. The $150 million in grants, estimated to support at least 15 plants, can support projects such as expanding meat processing plants or building new facilities that are prepared to break ground with additional funding. It is expected that a second round of $225 million in additional grant funding will be available in the next few months to further support the sector, including small and very small federally inspected plants.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) issued the following comment, attributable to Eric Deeble, NSAC Policy Director, in response to USDA’s announcement today:
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is very pleased to see this initial round of funding from USDA to support meat and poultry processors nationwide. This is an essential step to address significant structural issues in the sector – including consolidation and processing bottlenecks for sustainable producers that limit their ability to get their products to market. We hope that the next round of investments further advances the Administration’s commitment to the small and very small processors that are the foundation of more resilient, profitable, and equitable regional food systems.”
In addition to the grant funding to expand processor capacity, USDA also announced $40 million in support for workforce development and training programs to build a pipeline of trained workers essential to expanding processing capacity which is in line with provisionsof the bipartisan Strengthening Local Processors Act sponsored by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) which was developed with support of NSAC members.
“Small and very small plants are particularly in need of this type of support as their operations require highly skilled workers who are able to perform multiple tasks – from processing animals to making ready-to-eat products – rather than the very narrow, repetitive work common at the largest plants. USDA is also making available $25 million to provide technical assistance to current and future MPPEP applicants with guidance on their expansion plans.”
For more information, visit: www.rd.usda.gov/mppep. Application materials can be found at www.rd.usda.gov/mppep or www.grants.gov. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 11, 2022, through www.grants.gov.
For a deeper analysis of the impacts of consolidation and concentration in the agriculture industry on farmers and the broader food system, as well as a path forward, read NSAC’s two-part blog series by NSAC Policy Specialist, Billy Hackett: