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Grant program will help small meat processors expand their operations

Grant program will help small meat processors expand their operations


Ryan Forbusch cuts ribeye steaks at the Dakota Butcher store in Watertown, S.D. The Clark-based business continues to expand.

South Dakota’s meat supply chain has experienced significant disruptions because of the COVID-19 pandemic and small meat processors are under incredible strain. Due to increased demands, reservations at local meat lockers have increased from 4-6 weeks in advance to 20-24 months, creating hardships for livestock producers needing to process their animals.

In response, a new grant program offered by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture aims to alleviate local processing bottlenecks by allocating $5 million toward grants for meat processors with less than 60 employees who meet one of the following criteria:

  • State inspected “equal to” slaughter and/or processing plants.
  • Licensed custom-exempt slaughter plants.
  • Very small federally inspected plants.

Funds may be used for improvements, such as processing and slaughter equipment, coolers/freezers, livestock holding equipment or facilities, and contractor costs. Salaries, supplies, and parts are not eligible.

A strong local meat sector is a crucial component of South Dakota’s economy, and this grant program is an important step in getting the state’s meat processing industry back on track. Investments in local meat lockers have a ripple effect, creating jobs, generating a stable local meat supply, and ensuring farmers have options to process their livestock. These are significant impacts for rural communities.

The application deadline for the grant program is May 1 and awards will be announced May 25. For more information, contact Brian Pontious at 605-773-5559, or or visit

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.

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