The United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) bold commitment to creating a more-resilient, diverse and equitable meat and poultry processing system is making new opportunities for rancher-owned enterprises, worker-owned housing and other cooperative initiatives.
Earlier this year (2022), the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a commitment of $1 billion in loans, grants and other resources to expand and diversify the meat and poultry processing capacity in the United States. As a part of this commitment, USDA established a network of organizations to provide technical assistance to groups accessing those resources.
USDA Technical Assistance Newtork
Organizations providing the technical assistance include:
- Flower Hill Institute
- Oregon State University- Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network
- Intertribal Agriculture Council
- American Meat Science Association
- Agricultural Utilization Research Institute
Flower Hill Institute, an Indigenous-led nonprofit based in New Mexico, is serving as the overall coordinator for the network and is working closely with AMS and the technical assistance providers to connect meat and poultry processors, USDA grant applicants and grant-funded project managers to the resources and expertise best-suited to support a project’s needs.
This technical assistance network is a valuable resource that compliments South Dakota’s commitment to strengthen meat processing capacity in the state, according to Dr. Christina Bakker, Assistant Professor and Extension Meat Science Specialist.
“Over the past two years, we have seen a strong surge in interest in developing new meat processing enterprises, the grants and loans available through South Dakota and USDA are very important, but organizers of these enterprises also need ongoing technical assistance as they develop their businesses,” said Dr. Bakker. “This technical assistance network is a valuable resource.”
“Over the past two years, we have seen a strong surge in interest in developing new meat processing enterprises; the grants and loans available are very important, but organizers of these enterprises also need ongoing technical assistance as they develop their businesses.”
SDSU Extension Initiatives
Dr. Bakker and Dr. Amanda Blair, Professor and Extension Meat Science Specialist at South Dakota State University, have been coordinating a SARE-funded project titled “Enhancing Producer Resources to Build Small Meat Processing Capacity and Local Meat Demand.” Through this grant, Drs. Bakker and Blair are developing an online decision tool for those interested in pursuing ventures in the meat processing industry. When it is finished, it will be available on the SDSU Extension website.
Drs. Bakker and Blair met with Dave Carter, a regional director for Flower Hill Institute in late June to discuss how resources developed through the SARE project could be utilized as a part of the USDA technical assistance network.
“This is an important two-way street,” Carter said. “The webinars and resource documents that SDSU has developed through the SARE grant can benefit project organizers across the country, so we want to include those as a part of our online toolkit.”
“Similarly, we want to make sure that anyone developing or expanding a facility in South Dakota and surrounding states has access to our technical assistance network.”
Requesting Technical Assistance
Groups working on meat and poultry processing initiatives are encouraged to submit a request for technical assistance by utilizing the USDA MPPTA Technical Assistance Request Form.
When the completed form is submitted, the Flower Hill team will review the request and connect the producer with the appropriate technical assistance provider. In some cases, Flower Hill may reach out directly to provide information, or to obtain additional information about the request.
Flower Hill Institute is providing everyone requesting technical assistance with periodic updates on USDA resources, including announcements of new grant opportunities being made available.
More information on USDA’s new technical assistance initiative is available on the USDA website.
The Meat and Poultry Processing Technical Assistance Program (MPPTA) is supported through cooperative agreements with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.