USDA invests $55.2M to increase capacity, expand access in meat, poultry inspection

Wisconsin State Farmer
“We are building capacity and increasing economic opportunity for small and midsized meat and poultry processors and producers across the country.” Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced $55.2 million in competitive grant funding available through the new Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program.

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.

The new program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We are building capacity and increasing economic opportunity for small and midsized meat and poultry processors and producers across the country.” Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “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.”

After fighting hard for several key priorities for cattle producers in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, National Cattlemen's Beef Association praised USDA for putting $55.2 million of those funds toward the critical need for greater beef processing capacity. 

"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," said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. "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." 

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 said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.

“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.”

Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. EST Monday, August 2, 2021. 

The grant is part of the Build Back Better initiative, a commitment to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the food system, support food production, improved processing, investments in distribution and aggregation, and market opportunities.