Legislation introduced to help local meat processors

Bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by Nebraska Congressman
The Strengthening Local Processing Act stands to benefit small processors that have had their business affected by the coronavirus.
Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 10:30 AM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The Strengthening Local Processing Act would allow small meat processors to expand their capacity to process animals and serve more rural livestock producers. Small plants play a critical role in ensuring farmers and ranchers are able to process their products. Processors have seen demand for their services skyrocket during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Because of this increase in demand a lot of those local processors would like to expand operations. Because of this change in consumer preference a lot of processors know that it’s going to be a good investment to do so,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.

Under current federal law, in order for a farmer or rancher to sell individual cuts of locally raised meats they must first send their animals to one of a limited number of U.S. Department of Agriculture or state-inspected slaughterhouses. These slaughterhouses are sometimes hundreds of miles away and there are far too few of them across the nation. As a result, many smaller meat and poultry processing plants are booked out for months, and small farms are unable to meet new demand due to a lack of processing capacity.

Hladik added, “This bill is an investment, when you make an investment in a local business like this you create a multiplier effect throughout the community. It’s a grant program that frankly is going to pay for itself. So how can you make sure lawmakers, no matter what party, no matter where they’re located, understand the value of making that investment and the difference it can make to us here in rural communities?”

The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week by U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

Part of this bill would provide grants for colleges and universities that implement meat processing training programs. Another component of the bill would provide ten million dollars to offset the cost of training new processors. Relief that businesses like Kelley’s Custom Pack in North Platte could benefit from.

“We need a couple more employees and we’re going to expand a little bit here and add on to it and that will help the community and add a couple more jobs to the community...We’ve been working seven days a week, twelve to fourteen hours a day and we’re trying to do what we can to help everybody," said Kelley’s owner, Tim Kelley.

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