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Nebraska Cattlemen president, William H. Rhea III, attended an event with USDA Secretary Vilsack in Council Bluffs today. The primary focus of the event was to announce $500 million in new funding for loans and grants to help expand regional processing capacity, among other Biden administration efforts.

USDA's intent is to invest $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds to expand meat and poultry processing capacity so that farmers, ranchers, and consumers have more choices in the marketplace. USDA also announced more than $150 million for existing small and very small processing facilities to help them weather COVID, compete in the marketplace and get the support they need to reach more customers.

“Increasing processing capacity is a priority issue for Nebraska Cattlemen.”  William H. Rhea III said. “From the work completed with Senator Brandt in the Nebraska Legislature to create a framework to access grant funds through the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, to increasing levels of funding and capital from USDA - the opportunity for small and medium sized processors to expand has never been greater.”

Additional resources from USDA regarding small processor funding are available through the creation of competitive grant funding opportunities for small, regional, and independent meat processors in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which placed $55.2 million towards the critical need for greater beef processing capacity. This competitive grant funding will be available through the new Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program. The funds will support small beef processing facilities making the improvements necessary to achieve a Federal Grant of Inspection, or to operate under their state's Cooperative Interstate Shipment program. Applications for funding must be submitted online at www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 2.

The supply of cattle and the demand for U.S. beef are both strong, but the bottleneck in the middle caused by a lack of hook space has stifled producer profitability and created unsustainable market dynamics. On an agriculture industry call earlier this month, Secretary Vilsack emphasized greater processing capacity as a key component of USDA's $4 billion Build Back Better Initiative, which underscores the need to bring federal inspection within reach for more facilities.

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