New House bill would allow small meat lockers to expand
Legislation to support local business and livestock producers was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-ME, and Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE.
The Strengthening Local Processing Act seeks to address market disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic. When the country’s largest processing facilities had to close, commodity producers flooded local meat lockers with their product. With already limited reservation space being taken up by large growers, longtime customers had to schedule orders up to one year in advance. The recent growth in consumer demand for local food ensures this backlog will continue.
This bill would allow small meat processors to expand their capacity to process animals and serve more rural livestock producers.
“New markets are new opportunities,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.” Small meat lockers are catalysts for economic activity. The Strengthening Local Processing Act will make it possible for these businesses to grow and expand.”
As part of the legislation, a grant program to help cover costs associated with meeting federal or state inspection guidelines and to assist processors in expanding their infrastructure would be established.
“Like many local processors, we have seen a significant growth in demand for our services,” said Mike Boell, owner of the Oakland (Nebraska) Meat Processing Plant. “Right now regulatory and financial barriers are making it difficult for businesses like ours to take full advantage of this opportunity. The Strengthening Local Processing Act is a step in the right direction and we think it deserves Congressional support.”
Additionally, the bill invests in the next generation of small meat processors by offering grants to train small-plant operators and employees.
“This legislation reflects the priorities of farmers and business owners from across the nation,” Hladik said. “We are proud to have played a part in its development and applaud this bipartisan group of lawmakers for their willingness to act.”