Meat & Livestock News

Delays in USDA Meat Processing Grants: An Explanation

TL;DR: USDA meat processing grants face delays due to an overwhelming number of applications and staffing shortages, affecting processors awaiting funds for upgrades and expansions.

Funding Challenges

The USDA has committed over $1 billion to support meat processors and equipment manufacturers looking to upgrade plants, purchase new equipment, and expand operations. This move aims to strengthen the supply chain disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and major packing plant closures. However, the distribution of these funds has faced significant delays.

Grant Distribution Issues

Many meat processors eagerly anticipating federal grants for upgrading their facilities have been left waiting for months without clear reasons for the delay. Recent issues have especially affected grants from the latter half of 2023.

Technical Assistance and Grant Applications

The Flower Hill Institute is responsible for overseeing the technical assistance aspect of the USDA’s programs. According to Dave Carter, regional director for technical assistance at the Institute, two main issues have contributed to the delays:

Overwhelming Applications: The Local Meat Capacity (MCap) grant program, with $75 million available, received nearly 1,000 applications, far exceeding the anticipated 200 to 300.

Staffing Shortages: The flood of applications coincided with staffing reductions due to the debt ceiling agreement, impacting the speed of the review process.

Current Grant Status

As of now, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has awarded 42 grants, totaling $9.5 million under the MCap program. Despite these awards, many processors are still waiting for their funding, with decisions pending on numerous applications.

Looking Ahead

The application period for the second round of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) closed in November 2023, with announcements expected by April 2024. The AMS is managing a more reasonable number of 157 applications for this round, suggesting potential improvements in processing times.

Dave Carter remains optimistic that the USDA will soon catch up to the backlog and begin to streamline the grant allocation process, helping processors to proceed with their planned expansions and upgrades.