Five meat processors receive grants for expansion projects

Amber Burke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Five Wisconsin meat processors received grants from DATCP in 2022. The are grants intended to help grow the state’s meat industry and improve the long-term viability of the livestock industry.

Gov. Tony Evers, together with Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Randy Romanski, recently announced in a press release five meat processors that will receive meat processor grants from DATCP in 2022. These grants were intended to help grow Wisconsin’s meat industry and improve the long-term viability of the state’s livestock industry. 

“Wisconsin’s agriculture industry isn’t just core to who we are as a state but to our statewide economy, with meat processors playing a critical role,” said Gov. Evers. “I am proud our budget investments will help meat processors across the state expand their businesses and operations, and I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure this industry grows and thrives for years to come.”

A total of $200,000 was available for this year’s meat processor grants with a maximum of $50,000 allowed for each project. Grant recipients were selected through a competitive review process and are required to provide a match of 100 percent of the grant amount. These grants are available through the 2021-23 biennial budget, which included a $200,000 annual investment to help meat processors increase throughput. The funds were released by the Joint Committee on Finance in October 2021. Gov. Evers had initially proposed a $2 million investment for meat processor grants in his 2021-23 biennial budget, but that amount was ultimately cut through the budget process.

In addition to the meat processor grants, Gov. Evers also recently announced up to $5 million in meat talent development assistance funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. This funding will be used to help attract and provide financial support to students in Wisconsin meat processing training programs, as well as support program development and connect the meat processing industry with potential employees.

“Our diverse and resilient meat processors are a vitally important part of Wisconsin’s $104.8 billion agriculture industry,” said DATCP Secretary Romanski. “We need to invest in our strengths. These grants will invest in our meat processing businesses, help strengthen the industry, and help the industry modernize and expand to meet the needs of farmers and consumers.”

The custom modular loading dock system at Nordik Meats is equipped with a solar powered hydraulic lift.

DATCP received 100 applications with more than $4.4 million in grant requests. The five grant recipients and their planned projects include: 

  • Nordik Meats, Viroqua, $25,000 – Expanding frozen storage, purchase of a walk-in freezer unit and forklift, and increasing labor. 
  • Paulie’s Chop Shop, Luxemburg, $50,000 – Construction of a new butcher shop, training, and purchasing numerous pieces of equipment. 
  • JM Watkins, Plum City, $50,000 – Construction of a new building and purchase of a new smoker.
  • Sorg Farm Packing, Darien, $25,000 – Reconstruction of an existing carcass cooler and freezer and expansion of processing and cutting room.
  • Crescent Meats, Cadott, $50,000 – Addition of more than 19,000 square feet to existing facility. 

"Crescent Meats has grown tremendously in harvesting and processing, including private labeling. (Producers that are marketing their own brand). In addition, we continue to grow our own brand in a variety of ways, including all of our sausage products at the national level," said Wayne Lautsbaugh of Crescent Meats in Cadott. "We are building an addition in order to increase the capacity of harvesting livestock and of smoked production of all of our most popular items such as snack sticks, hot dogs, bacon, brats and summer sausage."

Lautsbaugh says they plan to break ground in Sept. 2022, on the 20,000 square foot addition, which will consist of new production space, smokers, ready to eat packaging capabilites, cooler and freezer space, as well as a shipping dock.

"As a family owned and operated full-service meat processing facility, Crescent Meats is very appreciative of the grant funding from the state of Wisconsin," Lautsbaugh said. "We are excited to start on our expansion project in order to continue to provide our high quality homemade meat products."

Kevin Ladwig, co-chair of the Wisconsin Bi-Partisan Meat Caucus and vice president of Johnsonville, LLC, says the meat processing grants are an important first step in modernizing plants and adding needed production capacity in the state. "We have a growing industry and these monies will support bringing supply in line with demand which continues to grow across Wisconsin,” he said. 

The Wisconsin Bi-Partisan Meat Caucus aims to use creative and multi-faceted innovation and workforce development pathways to support the viability and growth of the Wisconsin Meat Industry.

"the Caucus has been instrumental in expressing the industry's needs and we are pleased with the progress that has been made," Ladwig said, "but we continue to share our story about how important the industry is to the state of Wisconsin."

Evers said the state's pandemic recovery funds will help processors rebuild and recover. "They need the state’s support to ensure the agricultural industry can keep thriving in the face of continued supply chain issues and other challenges," he said. "This strategic investment will allow us to continue supporting our meat processors as they work to modernize and ensure long-term growth."

DATCP will continue to accept applications until Fri., Aug. 19, 2022. The request for proposals and application is available on DATCP’s website at: https://datcp.wi.gov/Documents2/2022MeatPoultryResiliencyGrantRFP.pdf