PANAMA CITY, Fla. — The Southeastern Meat Association marked the return of its annual convention June 2-5. Holding their first get-together since 2019, association members and associate supplier members gathered to discuss industry issues, socialize and check out exhibits.

sema.jpgAmong the 44 suppliers exhibiting during the June 3 Exhibitors Showcase were several first-time exhibitors, including insurer ECM Solutions, Sidney Lee Welding Supply Inc. and operational supplies provider UltraSource. Also among the first-time exhibitors was Predictive Food Safety. The supplier of antimicrobial interventions and other poultry processing solutions has just added peracetic acid to its product lineup, owner Bruce Peterson said.

Another new product on display was custom seasoning supplier A.C. Legg Inc.’s Spicy Orange Wing Rub. A.C. Legg will celebrate its 100th year next year, Executive Vice President Chuck Purvis said. Exhibitor Dixie Grinding Inc. has recently added 10,000 square feet of production to its Guntersville, Ala., facility, bringing the site’s total to 40,000 square feet, Vice President and General Manager Matt Sellnow said. The company is working on plans to add a two-story office at the location, Sellnow said.

New board members

SEMA announced its new lineup of board members during the June 4 Business Meeting, with the following serving as officers for 2022-23:

  • President — Dave Lee of D.L. Lee and Sons
  • Vice president — Brian Sapp of White Oak Pastures Inc.
  • Treasurer — Jerry Mosley of Bari Beef International
  • Chairman of the board — Steve Harris of Travis Meats Inc.

Directors named to the board for 2022-23 are:

  • Tom Carroll, Sunset Farm Foods Inc.
  • Sep Harvin, Williamsburg Packing Co.
  • Scott McBride, Uncle John’s Pride LLC
  • Billy Nettles, Nettles Sausage Inc.
  • Monika Rausch, Fieldstone Meats of Alabama
  • Joe Villari, Villari Food Group.

The board appointed Duane Mobley of Astro Products Inc. to one of its appointed seats, and during the June 3 Associate Meeting, SEMA’s Associate Members elected Mark Hyde of Reiser and Gus Maroun of DeLaval Cleaning Solutions as their representatives on the board. Gene Funkhouser of A.C. Legg was named Newest Legacy Member.

karla-weiszer.pngThe names of the new board members were announced by DCW Casing LLC saleswoman Karla Weiszer, who not only stepped down from her position on the board after four years but also announced her retirement after a 47-year career in casings.     

Labor and regulatory issues

During the convention’s Processors Round Table Discussion, led by American Association of Meat Processors Executive Director Chris Young, Young asked the crowd what was the biggest challenge their business was facing, and the unanimous reply was “labor.”

Among the ideas Young and audience members suggested for attracting and retaining workers were:

  • paying more
  • making workers realize their jobs’ opportunities for skill development to increase their value
  • managers being visible and accessible to workers
  • using temp agencies to save costs and cut risks.

Young said good employees can be a good recruitment tool and can provide positive peer pressure for employees they refer. He said some processors have had success with inmate labor programs and that workers hired through such programs may stay with the company that was willing to give them an opportunity.

Young also spoke during the Grants, Loans, & Other Essential Information session, where he gave an overview of the challenges small and medium processors face trying to access grant funding available to meat processors through U.S. Department of Agriculture programs such as MPPEP and MPIRG as well as proposed changes to Appendix A & B. He urged companies using grant writers as part of their application process to look for grant writer with knowledge of the meat industry and to be ready to explain in detail expansion plans, including what contractors you will use and how the expansion will positively impact the supply chain, including your supplier partners.

Despite the challenging labor market and regulatory frustrations, Young said, “We all know right now is a great time to be a small to medium processor.”