Tester Secures $55.2 Million to Expand State Meat Processing Capacity and Access

Funds will be used in competitive grant program for processing facilities working toward Federal inspection

As a part of his years long fight to increase local meat processing capacity in Montana and reduce consolidation in the meatpacking industry, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today secured $55.2 million in competitive grant funding that will provide critical resources for currently operating processing facilities that are working toward Federal inspection.

“In order to break the stranglehold that large packers have on the marketplace, we have to bolster local processing capacity and increase competition—that’s exactly what these dollars will do,” said Tester. “This program will bring more processors into the national market and help provide some much-needed stability for Montana producers. But we have to do more, and I’m going to keep pushing to allow Montana’s local meat processors that meet federal inspection requirements to sell across state lines and pass legislation that helps USDA enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act to reign in the big packers and keep Montana ranchers and cow-calf operators in business.”

This new funding is available through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program, which was funded by the December 2020 appropriations package. MPIRG’s Planning for a Federal Grant of Inspection (PFGI) project is for processing facilities currently in operation and are working toward meeting Federal inspection requirements. Applicants can be located anywhere in the states and territories, and eligible meat slaughter and processing facilities include commercial businesses, cooperatives, and Tribal enterprises. Applications for grants are due August 2, 2021.

Last week, Tester, a longtime champion of increasing meat processing capacity, urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to join his push to allow state inspected meat plants to sell across state lines. He also secured a commitment from Vilsack that USDA will address consolidation by creating a revolving fund with low interest loans to fund part of the cost of establishing new packing plants. Vilsack committed that USDA will begin to identify funding streams by this summer.

At the same hearing, Tester also secured Secretary Vilsack’s support for his bipartisan Meat Packing Special Investigator Act, which would create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Packers and Stockyards Division.

The new USDA special investigator will have a team of investigators, with subpoena power, dedicated to preventing and addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries and enforcing our nation’s antitrust laws. They will coordinate and act in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission and create a new bridge between the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to protect the continuation of the food supply and increase our national security. With a team of dedicated staff, the USDA will have the ability to deeply investigate issues facing producers, safeguard producers by enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act, and protect America’s food supply chain and national security.