Continuing shocks to the meat processing industry from the ongoing global health crisis have many states, including Nebraska, looking for ways to support their small meat processors, according to a white paper released recently by the Center for Rural Affairs.
The white paper, “A Strong Meat Sector for the Beef State,” authored by Henry Miller, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, with support from Nathan Beacom, senior policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs, examines state-level policies for supporting small meat processing.
“Last spring, commodity producers flooded local meat lockers with their product after the country’s largest processing facilities had to close due to COVID-19 concerns,” Beacom said. “With space taken by larger growers, longtime customers now have to schedule their orders up to two years in advance. We are looking for ways to help small processors to expand their capacity, stabilizing the supply chain and giving producers new routes for selling their animals, so that they can stay in business.”
Among the recommendations offered in the paper are the establishment of a grant program in Nebraska to assist small and very small processors with the expansion of infrastructure to ease the current production bottleneck and the creation of a custom exemption program to make it easier for farmers to sell directly to consumers.
Nebraska’s laws and regulations, Beacom said, should be designed to make sure the people involved in producing, processing, and buying those animals get a fair shake.
“This setup provides a stable alternative to selling to the same large meat companies and provides a pathway for local people to do business together, eye to eye,” he said. “Neighboring states like Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas have created grant programs to help small processors expand their capacity. These play a crucial role in supporting small processors and strengthening the sector.”
The white paper is available at cfra.org/publications.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.