The Center for Rural Affairs is applauding the launch of a new grant program aimed at building capacity and increasing economic opportunity for area small and mid-sized meat and poultry processors.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will provide $55.2 million in competitive grant funding through the new Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program. The program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
“Demand for local foods has grown steadily over the past 16 months, and producers have risen to meet the challenge,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs. “Our processors are our partners, and they have done all they can to keep up. This program will help them make the efficiency and capacity improvements needed to keep this important piece of our rural economy growing.”
Under the MPIRG program, small and mid sized meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities can cover the costs for necessary improvements to achieve a Federal Grant of Inspection or to operate under a state’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.
Activities eligible for funding include modernizing or expanding an existing facility; new construction of buildings at an existing facility; modernizing processing, packaging, and labeling equipment; meeting occupational and food safety standards; and any costs associated with becoming a federally inspected facility.
However, some restrictions may make it difficult for otherwise eligible businesses to fully utilize the program, Hladik said.
“Unfortunately this program is entirely unavailable to businesses that are already USDA inspected, which leaves out many processors that are otherwise prime candidates for expansion,” he said. “For those interested in becoming inspected, costs associated with purchasing land and building a new facility are also ineligible, which will limit processors that are unable to expand at their current location.”
Grant applications will be accepted electronically through grants.gov until Aug. 2. Commercial businesses, cooperatives, and tribal enterprises are eligible to apply. The USDA encourages applications aimed at increasing access to slaughter or processing facilities for smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, and veteran producers.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is offering webinars for applicants to help walk them through the Request for Application. Additionally, grants management specialists are available to answer questions during regular business hours. For more information about grant eligibility and program requirements, visit the ams.usda.gov/services/grants/