A comprehensive bill designed to address livestock supply chain issues and support small and mid-size meat processors has been introduced as federal legislation. The Strengthening Local Processing Act provides small plants with the funds needed to grow and expand, and supports a scale-appropriate approach to small scale slaughter and processing.
Introduced by representatives from Maine and Nebraska, the bill contains the following sections:
- Establishment of a searchable database to help small and very small plants find models and receive guidance on HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plans necessary for certification.
- Expanding state inspection by increasing the share of program costs paid by USDA to states.
- Expanding the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program by increasing USDA cost share and moving eligibility to be recognized as a small plant from 25 to 50 employees.
- Training, Education & Technical Assistance Grants will be available for small plants, universities and technical colleges to train a variety of workers from operators to butchers. Grants will also be available for other costs associated with expanding or establishing a small plant, and for coping with pandemic situations.
The bill has been endorsed by organizations such as the American Association of Meat Processors, National Farmers Union, US Cattleman’s Association and other species-specific groups.
So, if the bill passes, what are some benefits to South Dakota meat producers and consumers?
According to Cindy Tolle, owner of Sturgis Meats in Sturgis, SD, “I think it’s a great idea. It should help get more processing going, and really help producers. It would take some strain off of my plant, which is way too busy. We turn away about 30 producers a day who can’t wait for an appointment months into the future.”
"I think it’s a great idea. It should help get more processing going, and really help producers. It would take some strain off of my plant, which is way too busy. We turn away about 30 producers a day who can’t wait for an appointment months into the future."
These quotes come from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:
Kevin Barnhill, owner of the Blair Meat Market in Blair, Nebraska, offered: “The Strengthening Local Processing Act is a winning proposal. Business owners will appreciate the targeted assistance. Farmers will profit from increased market opportunities. Consumers will benefit most of all from access to fresh and local foods.”
“It provides financial relief for required food safety activities, reducing the regulatory burden on small companies with limited resources,” said Jim Wells, CEO of the North American Bison, LLC, in New Rockford, North Dakota. “This financial support for the colleges and universities would be used to develop curriculum and programs in meats and meat processing, resulting in a more competent and resilient workforce for bison processors.”
From a Community Vitality viewpoint, the ability to have a small meat processor locally is a win for economic development. The South Dakota Local Food Network held two statewide listening sessions in May, with one of the top concerns mentioned being access to meat and poultry processing facilities.
Liliya Stone, Wall Economic Development Director, says, “The owner of our small meat processing plant earned the trust of our producers and people in the community. The plant has been a big help to ranchers in the area needing to process their beef, as well as promoting local beef through the school and a local restaurant. The business boosts the economy of Wall year-round, and has led the Economic Development Board to take steps toward designating an industrial park.”
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition states that small processors are excited to see a focus on scale-appropriate regulations, and support for education of the next generation of small-scale, niche meat processors. Here in South Dakota, there has long been a need for more small processors, both for livestock and poultry. Locker plants not only help producers enter the supply chain, but also provide additional economic vitality for communities.
Learn more about meat processing at the upcoming virtual South Dakota Local Foods Conference November 5 – 7, 2020.