US provides grants and loans to expand meat processing capacity

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will give small and medium-sized meat processors $73 million in grants to expand capacity and provide more funding through lending programs, Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday. said to

The funding is intended to increase competition and stability in the meat industry, which is dominated by a few players, as part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to boost competition in the U.S. economy and curb hyperinflation. increase.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the temporary closure of large slaughterhouses in early 2020, driving meat prices up, revealing a rift in the industry. Some farmers have had to dispose of livestock that could not be processed due to closures.

The grants to the 21 projects are part of the $150 million USDA set aside for the first phase of an attempt to expand processing capacity, Virsak said. The agency said it will soon begin filing for a new phase to deploy his additional $225 million.

The program aims to increase beef and pork production capacity by more than 500,000 head a year and poultry plant capacity by more than 34 million a year, Vilsack said. He expects the project to create more than 11,000 jobs, not including construction jobs.

Meat processors have struggled to attract factory workers due to a tight labor market and concerns over worker safety. Companies seeking USDA subsidies had to prove they could attract workers, Vilsack said.

USDA has also provided $75 million in loan guarantees for four meat and poultry projects and $75 million for non-profit programs that can provide low-interest loans to the sector, Virsak said.

Reporting by Tom Polansek, Editing by Deepa Babington

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