As part of the Build Back Better initiative and funding through the Consolidated Appropriations of 2021, USDA announced $55.2 million in competitive grant funding as part of a broader commitment to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the food system and improve meat processing capacity.
The competitive grant funding is available through the new Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant program. USDA encourages grant applications that focus on improving meat and poultry slaughter and processing capacity and efficiency; developing new and expanding existing markets; increasing capacity and better meeting consumer and producer demand; maintaining strong inspection and food safety standards; obtaining a larger commercial presence; and increasing access to slaughter or processing facilities for smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, and veteran producers. Eligible meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities include commercial businesses, cooperatives and tribal enterprises.
“We are building capacity and increasing economic opportunity for small and midsized meat and poultry processors and producers across the country,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Through MPIRG, meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities can cover the costs for necessary improvements to achieve a Federal Grant of Inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or to operate under a state’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.”
The structure of the program is notably similar to the RAMP UP Act - Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants – introduced in July 2020 by a bipartisan group of House Agriculture Committee members. The RAMP-UP Act aimed to give processors the tools to become federally inspected facilities, which widens their customer base while maintaining strong inspection standards.
MPIRG’s Planning for a Federal Grant of Inspection project is for processing facilities currently in operation and are working toward Federal inspection. Applicants can be located anywhere in the states and territories. Whereas, MPIRG’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment Compliance project is only for processing facilities located in states with a Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) CIS program. These states currently include Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. Applicants must be working toward CIS program compliance requirements to operate a state-inspected facility or make a good faith effort toward doing so.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane says NCBA leadership has spoken directly with Vilsack about the need for more capacity in local and regional facilities, and they’ve been encouraged by the secretary's attention to this problem.
“This grant money will help ensure that we're not just making big plants bigger, but actually expanding capacity in those smaller, independent facilities that our producers need as well," Lane says.
The supply of cattle and the demand for U.S. beef are both strong, but the bottleneck in the middle caused by a lack of hook space has stifled producer profitability and created unsustainable market dynamics, NCBA says.
“The chokepoint created by a lack of processing capacity is directly harming our producers and their ability to capture higher value for their product. NCBA has been engaging aggressively on this issue and we're gratified to see the funds we fought to secure in December now going toward a top-priority need in our industry," Lane says.
Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, August 2, 2021. Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application.
AMS offers webinars for applicants to help walk them through the Request for Application. Additionally, grants management specialists are standing by to answer any incoming questions and emails during regular business hours. For more information about grant eligibility and program requirements, visit the MPIRG webpage, or contact USDA staff at [email protected].