The Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy is opening up funding to aid Kentucky’s cattle processors.
The impact that the COVID-10 pandemic has had on the food supply chain, especially in regard to meatpacking and processing, has been substantial, but there has been a silver lining. Namely, a new and positive light has been shone on all aspects of agriculture, said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.
“As we have experienced shortages due to the shuttering of many of these larger processors, Kentuckians have rediscovered local agriculture, including meat,” he said. “If you a farmer that specializes in freezer meats, the last couple of months have gone well. Now we are seeing consumers that hadn’t previously bought local looking for those meats and those farmers. Many of our smaller processors are now completely booked until January 2021.”
The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, the body charged with distributing Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund money, has developed a three-tiered investment approach for state processors through the Meat Processing Investment Program, said Warren Beeler, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy executive director.
“This three-tiered investment approach incentivizes our processors to do more with what they have to increase the volume of meat processed in Kentucky,” he said. “I am very proud of the board’s bold action that will help grow an area of our food chain that has been overwhelmed due to the pandemic.”
The funding comes from the tobacco settlement payment from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and is meant to aid the state’s smaller processors in adding to their infrastructure so that they can handle more production and modernize, Quarles said.
“As stewards of this investment money that other states don’t have,” he said, “we have been able to make strategic investments in areas of promise. Increasing meat production is a major priority. Now, the average consumer is understanding why we need more processing. This is a great time for us to reinvest in our livestock industry, especially given that half of our cash receipts come from livestock.”
Through Level 1 (Kentucky Meat Processor Incentives), eligible applicants can receive up to $20,000 per facility. Level 1 is for processors needing support with costs related to increasing processing capacity of Kentucky animals custom processed under U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection.
Level 2 (Simplified Processor Capacity Expansion) would allow eligible applicants to receive up to $37,500 in funding for expenses related to small to modest facility expansion, improvements or upgrades. Level 2 eligible investments include freezers, coolers, penning areas, kill floors, machinery and equipment, restorations, food safety certifications and building expenses.
Level 3 Large-Scale Processing Expansion) would provide up to $250,000 to those processors that are already USDA-inspected or planning on becoming USDA-inspected that are interested in making extensive facility improvements with the goal of processing more Kentucky meat products.
For Kentucky’s 38,000 cattle farmers, the possibility of increased in-state processing, especially in a time where the big names in meat are being called out for alleged “anticompetitive” practices, is “a dream,” said Dave Maples, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president.
“I think it is a great thing and I like what they did because they are going to help our smaller custom plants to those that have some size,” he said. “We have over 1.1 million cows and they have calves, and most of them leave the state. A dream of ours would be to bring it back home. This food system is complicated, that is the way that it has evolved. In the current climate, a lot can change and hopefully will for the better.”
For more information on the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy’s cattle processing program visit agpolicy.ky.gov.
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, email@example.com