INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) – Forty small regional meat processors in Indiana have received nearly $ 4 million in federal CARES Act funding to offset the effects of COVID-19. The money was distributed through a grant program from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
This week, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and ISDA Director Bruce Kettler took a three-month tour of 10 facilities across the state.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Crouch stated that the program aims to improve food resilience.
“The money from the CARES bill just allowed us to give a little bit of support to these independent meat processors,” said Crouch. “We don’t want the supply chain to be interrupted. And we saw during COVID that that was exactly what happened. “
When the state’s largest processors, like Tyson Foods in Logansport, were shut down for several weeks because of a high number of positive COVID cases among their workers, smaller, local processors tried to boost production.
According to ISDA, the money should help processors increase the number of animals slaughtered, expand production capacity and improve work safety.
But these shops have fewer staff and limited production capacity to process cattle and pigs for slaughter and processing.
“I’ve even had some, some of these owners say the challenge was that with all the extra work we could bring in people, but we couldn’t bring them closer together,” said Kettler. “This grant allowed them in some cases to spread things out, maybe remove walls and add some space for processing.”
Each facility was refunded up to a maximum of $ 150,000 for corporate investments. The program required recipients to invest at least one dollar for every dollar received from the state.
In numerical terms, the state has allocated US $ 3.7 million, with processors investing US $ 5.8 million of their own capital for a total of US $ 9.6 million.
The program was made available to existing meat processors with fewer than 500 employees, meaning companies like Tyson Foods were not eligible.
Crouch says ISDA’s five-year strategy, even before the pandemic, was to provide additional resources to local processors to help farmers.
“There is such a need for small businesses in agriculture,” said Crouch. There has to be a place where farmers can collect and process their pigs and cows. “