INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Forty small, regional meat processors in Indiana have received nearly $4 million in federal CARES Act funding to help offset the impact of COVID-19. The money was distributed through a grant program administered by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
This week, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and ISDA Director Bruce Kettler completed a three-month-long tour of 10 of the facilities across the state.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Crouch explained the program is intended to improve food supply resiliency.
“The CARES Act money just enabled us to provide a little support for these independent meat processors,” said Crouch. “We don’t want the supply chain to be disrupted. And we saw during COVID that that is what occurred.”
When the state’s largest processors, like Tyson Foods in Logansport, were closed for several weeks due to a high number of positive cases of COVID among their workers, smaller, local processors tried to boost production.
ISDA says the money was aimed at helping processors increase the number of livestock slaughtered, expanding production capacity, and improving worker safety.
But those shops have a smaller staff and limited production capabilities to process beef cows and hogs ready for slaughter and processing.
“I’ve even had some, some of these owners say the challenge was, with all that that extra work, even if we could bring people in, we couldn’t put them put them closer together,” said Kettler. “This grant allowed them, in some cases, to be able to space things out, maybe remove walls and add some space for processing.”
Each facility was reimbursed up to a maximum award of $150,000 for investments the companies made. The program required recipients to invest at least one dollar for every dollar received from the state.
By the numbers, the state allocated $3.7 million with processors investing $5.8 million of their own capital, totaling $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 that even before the pandemic, the five-year strategy for ISDA was to throw additional resources to the local processors to help farmers.
“There is such a need for those kinds of small businesses in agriculture,” said Crouch. There has to be a place where farmers can take their hogs and their cows and be able to have them you know processed.”