Tester Secures Nearly $292,000 to Increase Competition and Expand Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity in Montana
Funding comes from Senator’s American Rescue Plan Act
U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that he secured $291,900 from the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) for the Montana Premium Processing Cooperative (MPPC) in Havre. This program was funded through Tester’s American Rescue Plan Act and the funding will go toward expanding the Cooperative’s meat and poultry processing capacity.
Tester helped negotiate the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and he was the only Montana statewide official that supported the legislation.
“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 said. “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 win-win, and I’ll keep standing up for Montana by supporting local ventures like the Montana Premium Processing Cooperative.”
The MPPC will use the MPPEP funds to provide independent producers in Montana with an option for a local USDA inspected meat processing facility in an area that is currently without Federally inspected processing.
“Montana producers understand the importance of state and local processing plants when it comes to cutting costs and increasing efficiency,” said Walt Schweitzer, President, 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. We’re grateful for this funding and commend Senator Tester for his continued efforts to support small ranchers and packers here in the Treasure State.”
“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, Board Member for Montana Premium Processing (Judith Gap). “Meat processing is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting our top-notch 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 Senator Tester for his continued to work to support Montana’s agriculture sector.”
“Rural people grow and produce the everyday essentials our country depends on, and President Biden is committed to ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed,” said USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “Thanks to the leadership of Senator Tester, the investments we’re announcing today are just the beginning, as we partner with rural people in Montana to strengthen the food supply chain and create jobs and economic opportunities in the places rural people call home.”
Tester’s 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.
Tester has also been the leading champion of Montana’s small farmers and ranchers and has led the charge to increase competition in the agriculture industry. Tester’s Meat Packing Special Investigator Act would create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and his Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act sets regional mandatory minimum thresholds for negotiated purchases of fed cattle by large meatpackers.
Tester has also played a key role in expanding meat processing capability in Montana. In March, Tester secured $7.8 million for 30 Montana agriculture small businesses, which included funding for three new USDA-certified meat processing facilities. Specifically, the Senator secured $150,000 for Big Sky Processing in Pray, $300,000 for Blue Creek Marbled Meat Co in Billings, and $450,00 for Nguyen Holdings, Inc dba M&S Meats in Rollins.