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Lawmakers in Nebraska, Iowa give final approval to bills supporting small meat processors
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Lawmakers in Nebraska, Iowa give final approval to bills supporting small meat processors

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Deer hunting 2017

Dale Kettlewell and his son, Gavian, 9, check in deer for processing at Niemuth's Steak & Chop Shop in Waupaca on Saturday. Gavian was helping his father butcher deer for the first time.

Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers gave unanimous approval to bills that assist small meat processors and livestock producers as they work to clear obstacles brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nebraska Legislative Bill (LB) 324 and Iowa House File (HF) 857 received final round approval May 19 and now await signatures from Govs. Pete Ricketts and Kim Reynolds, respectively.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has tested and challenged both processors and producers across the country,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs, which supports the bills. “Seeing lawmakers from Nebraska and Iowa approve their respective bills on the same day shows a strong level of support for our small family farms and gives processors the tools they need to grow their businesses, create jobs and increase activity on our main streets.”

LB 324, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt, makes it easier for consumers to buy meat directly from producers or processors. It also creates the Independent Processor Assistance Program to help processors with expansion, modification, or construction of buildings; efficient packaging, processing, and storage equipment; technology to improve logistics or enable e-commerce; and educational or workforce training programs. Passage came on a 48-0 vote.

HF 857, introduced by Rep. Chad Ingels, will establish the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund and Program to provide assistance to new and existing small meat lockers in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and forgivable loans to help them grow. Additionally, a task force to explore the feasibility of establishing a community college artisanal butchery program would be established. The bill is designed to complement the Meat Processing Expansion and Development Program that ended in 2020. The Iowa Senate passed the measure Wednesday on a 48-0 and the House on an 86-0 vote.

Hladik thanked Sen. Brandt and Rep. Ingels for leading the effort to address backlogs that began in 2020 when outbreaks of COVID-19 impeded work at many regional packing plants.

“When those plants paused, large-scale beef and pork producers turned to local processors to fill the void. This created a debilitating bottleneck at local meat lockers, Hladik said. “Lawmakers have cleared the way to bring needed solutions for producers, local small business owners and consumers of quality beef and pork.”

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