A new piece of legislation was recently introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate that will be a game changer for small processors. 

H.R. 1258 and S.370, Strengthening Local Processing Act, is legislation that provides many of the critical things we have been looking for to help small processors improve and grow their businesses. The events of 2020 and the response of small processors have highlighted the need to increase capacity in our industry and to provide help to processors who are vital to their local communities.

As of February 23, 2021, the legislation was introduced to both the House Ag and Senate Ag Committees. The bill is being pushed to be introduced in one of the next two COVID-19 relief packages. 

The bill includes:

  1. FSIS to develop a searchable database of model HACCP plans and supporting documentation to be used by small processors.
  2. Expanding funds are given to support state meat inspection programs.
  3. Expanding FSIS outreach to states to expand the Cooperative Interstate Shipping Program.
  4. Small processor GRANT Program - making up to $25 million a year available to small processors for expansion and improvement of their businesses. Processors would be able to receive between $100,000 - $500,000. This would be available for all processors, federally inspected, state inspected, and exempt plants.
  5. Training, education, and technical assistance - $10 million a year available for training.

I don't know of a time when we have had piece of legislation that was so favorable for small processors. I am asking you to take action today and contact your U.S. representatives and senators to ask them to support this legislation. Spread the word to other processors as well; let your voice be heard.

A letter template is available on AAMP’s website for you to use to contact your representative. You can find it here: www.aamp.com/strengthening-local-processing-act-letter/ 

The Strengthening Local Processing Act provides small plants with the funds needed to grow and expand and supports a scale-appropriate approach to small scale slaughter and processing. The bill sections include:

Section 2. Scale Appropriate Guidance and Assistance from FSIS

Requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to establish a searchable database of all the peer-reviewed, publicly available validation studies for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans for small and very small plants; create and make available to small and very small plants models of HACCP plans for multiple types of small plants, including but not limited to HACCP plans for slaughter plants and processing only plants, and based on the different types of products processed by plants; and create and publish guidance for public comment and input on how to get your HACCP plan approved.

Section 3. Expanding State Inspection

Increases the amount of cost share USDA will pay for a state Meat and Poultry Inspection Program from 50% to 65% of the total program costs.

Section 4. Expanding Cooperative Interstate Shipment

Requires FSIS to conduct outreach to states with state inspection programs that are not part of the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program and requires FSIS to submit a report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees each year detailing the activities and the results of the outreach conducted. Increases the amount of cost share USDA will pay for from 60% to 80% of the total program costs. Changes the small plant eligibility size from plants with more than 25 employees to plants with more than 50 employees.

Section 5. Small Plant Grant Program

Creates a new grant program to provide reimbursement grants to help federally inspected, state inspected, and exempt small and very small plants expand infrastructure to increase harvest and processing capacity, including support for existing plants and new small-scale meat slaughter and processing plants, and adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and future market needs beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Limits grants to not more than $100,000 for 90 percent of eligible costs and up to $500,000 for 75 percent eligible costs. Cost-share requirements will be waived for Fiscal Year 2021 grants. Provides $10 million a year in mandatory funding and $15 million in discretionary funding.

Section 6. Small Processor Training, Education, and Technical Assistance Grants

Creates Meat Processing Training Program Grants for experts and small and very small plants to assist and train small plant operators, small plant employees, and the next generation of meat processors and butchers. Provides $10 million a year in discretionary funding.

The following organizations endorse the Strengthening Local Processing Act:

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, The American Association of Meat Processors, The Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network, The National Farmers Union, American Grassfed Association, United States Cattlemen's Association, The National Bison Association, The Center for Rural Affairs, American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, and Family Farm Action