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Premium Processing Cooperative Aims To Help Families


The Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program, announced by the Biden-Harris Administration during a conference call on Tuesday, Nov. 1, will provide an opportunity for independent producers in Montana to establish a local USDA inspected meat processing facility.

The Montana Premium Processing Cooperative is part of the federal program that will invest $73 million in 21 grant projects.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was excited about the announcement of the program that aims to increase competition across the economy and help lower costs for American families.

“As someone who still runs a family farm to this day, I know folks in agriculture play an important role in our state’s economy and way of life,” Tester told the Northern Plains Independent. “Expanding in-state meat processing capacity will not only give Montana producers a competitive edge, but also drive down costs for consumers at the meat counter. Investments like these are a winwin, and I’ll keep standing up for Montana by supporting local ventures like the Montana Premium Processing Cooperative.”

The news was also welcomed by other agriculture leaders in the state.

“Montana producers understand the importance of state and local processing plants when it comes to cutting costs and increasing efficiency,” said Walt Schweitzer, president of the Montana Farmers Union. “Thanks to this grant, the Farmers Union will be able to expand our meat processing project in Havre and that means giving Montana producers more power in the marketplace and making sure capitalism is working properly.”

“It’s no secret that some of the best beef in the industry is produced right here in Big Sky Country,” said Ben Peterson, rancher and a board member for Montana Premium Processing in Judith Gap. “Meat processing is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting our topnotch beef from the ranch to the meat counter, and this funding to expand processing capability in Havre will increase efficiency, cut costs, and help producers like me stay competitive and in the black. Grant programs like these are invaluable, and we thank Sen. Tester for his continued to work to support Montana’s agriculture sector.”

American Rescue Plan Act dedicated $1 billion for the expansion and diversification of independent processing capacity. In order to meet this objective, USDA created a number of Meat and Poultry Supply Chain programs and initiatives. The Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program was one of several programs developed to support participants of these initiatives by providing technical assistance to expand processing at the state and local levels.

“Since President Biden laid out a commitment at the start of this year, USDA has worked 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,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during the conference call. “By jumpstarting independent processing projects and increasing processing capacity, these investments create more opportunities for farmers and ranchers to get a fair price, while strengthening supply chains, delivering more food produced closer to home for families, expanding economic opportunity and creating jobs in rural America.”

The announcement is the first round of funding made available through Phase I of MPEPP. Additional announcements are expected in the coming weeks. USDA will also soon begin taking applications for a new phase to deploy an additional $225 million, for a total of up to $375 million, to provide gap financing for independent processing plant projects that fill a demonstrated need for more diversified processing capacity.

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