Power of grassroots: Investing in meat processing

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Last week, Gov. DeWine announced the recipients of $15 million grant to Meat Processors in Ohio.

This is the second round of awards through the Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program administered by The Ohio Department of Development in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Round one awarded almost $25 million to processors in 53 Ohio counties.

The grant program is to help expand the capacity of local meat processors and meet the growing demand for meat processing services, which is a win-win for processors, farmers, consumers and communities. The grants are to be used to implement processing efficiencies, expand or construct facilities at existing sites, assist in training and certification and improve harvest services.

Meat processors can receive a grant of up to $250,000, with half of the money disbursed before projects are started and the other half awarded after the processing facilities show that the initial funds were spent on eligible costs.

Farm Bureau played a critical role in the start-up of this grant program. Our members are farmers, meat processors and consumers.

Finding local meat processors who can take your livestock hasn’t been an easy task, even pre-COVID. These are small processors with limited space, employees and time. But once COVID hit, the demand for local meat increased and the processors couldn’t keep up. Farmers were having to sell livestock at sales instead of processing them locally or finding out-of-state processors to help keep up with the demand they were facing.

My family raises beef cattle, and we, along with many others, were making appointments for calves that weren’t even born yet. For anyone who raises livestock, you know the many challenges with scheduling that far out.

All of the challenges the industry has been facing really hit full force during COVID, and our members started taking action and talking about those issues. Here in Ashtabula County, the Farm Bureau took action with county Commissioner Kathryn Whittington to survey the meat processors in the county who performed custom processing to identify needs and concerns that they had.

Other entities like the Ohio Meat Processors Association and livestock organizations, along with our members from all over the state, really stepped up and were telling their stories and working with their elected officials. Elected officials heard us, and they recognized the need for support for our local processors and the Ohio General Assembly prioritized the creation of the Meat Processing Grant program in the state’s 2022-23 budget.

The impacts are seen from the consumer level to the farmer level, and the negative impacts of not having a strong meat processing system locally can cripple animal agriculture and hinder the consumer’s ability to purchase local foods.

I am so excited to see that local processing facilities received funding in round two. Congratulations to Trumbull County facilities Jones Processing, Mahan Packing and Peden’s Meats. In Ashtabula County, Cherry Valley Slaughtering and Processing, Smokin T’s and NaKyrsie Meats, and in Geauga County, New Creation Farm LLC also received funding.

This program is investing in our local community and is securing the future of locally grown meats for consumers. It’s investing in employees and the local economy. It’s investing in the future of agriculture. That is the power of grassroots. That is what I am so incredibly proud of.

Orahood is organization director for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

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