The announcement came yesterday, as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was visiting Farmer Focus, an organic chicken processing facility in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The plant will be receiving a $3.6 million grant to assist with a $17.8 million total expansion plan.
“For too long, American farmers and ranchers have been asked to produce more to meet increasing demand across the country and around the world, while they and the rural communities they come from have struggled to see their fair share of the benefits,” Vilsack said. “Through investments like those I’m announcing today, USDA will continue to work tirelessly to give farmers and ranchers a fair chance to compete in the marketplace, which in turn helps lower food costs for the American people.”
Overall, the expansion plan will allow the facility to double its processing capacity to 630,000 birds per week, and create about 300 new jobs in Harrisonburg. Farmer Focus plans to begin construction work on the expansion later this year.
As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Biden Administration set aside funds to help expand and increase competition in meat processing facilities across the U.S.
During a news conference, Vilsack praised Farmer Focus’ model that allows producers to own their flocks and provide set prices. This is in contrast to what Vilsack describes as larger meat processors, that have seen a 50 percent increase in farm income that farmers have not benefited from.
Other funding has been approved for processing facilities in Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Maryland
Riverbend Meats, LLC in Idaho Falls will receive the largest of the five grants, and will use their $25 million grant to offset the cost of building a new vertically-integrated, environmentally-friendly beef processing plant. Riverbend Meats has been in operation for 30 years, and will increase their processing capacity from 300 head of cattle per day to 600 head of cattle per day, increasing the price ranchers receive for their cattle and decreasing the price consumers pay.
Prestage Farms of South Carolina, LLC. is receiving just under $25 million to purchase equipment. The family-owned and operated company has been in business since the 1980s and has constructed a technologically advanced poultry processing plant with vertical integration and European air-chilled technology. The plant will begin increasing turkey processing capacity by 8 million birds per year with automated equipment, creating 292 new full-time jobs.
Holly Poultry, LLC will also receive just over $2 million to help purchase equipment for the company’s upgraded and expanded facility. The poultry processing facility is a family owned and operated plant in Baltimore, Maryland, and estimates that the improvements will add about 200 jobs by 2025, and increase the facility’s capacity by over two million pounds of poultry per week.
An investment of over $3 million will assist CNF Enterprises, LLC with offsetting costs associated with constructing a new beef, pork, lamb, and buffalo processing facility in New Underwood, South Dakota. The new facility will have the capacity to process 4,000 head per year and provide custom USDA meat processing.