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meat processing

Gordon Reintroduces Wyoming Meat Processing Grant Program

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon has relaunched a program designed to boost the capacity of the state’s meat processing facilities and ease the impact of meat supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, he announced Wednesday.

Gordon relaunched the Wyoming Meat Processing Expansion grant program, which allocates up to $2 million in federal CARES funds to increase Wyoming’s local food supply chain security and capacity across the state.

“The significant processing bottlenecks that surfaced last year have not gone away,” Gordon said. “This program will continue to help improve our meat processing capacity and ensure Wyomingites have access to high-quality products. Our work assisting independent processors is important to our overall agriculture diversification efforts and helps to expand an important sector of our ag economy.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, major meat processing facilities across the country were forced to close, reducing the amount of meat reaching grocery store shelves and making it difficult for ranchers to get their meat processed.

In response, Gordon in September launched the meat processing plant relief program, setting aside money so processing plant operators could expand tehir operations.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture is currently accepting applications for the program. The program offers grants of up to $500,000 to eligible businesses with a 50% match component for funding.

Initial priority will be given to entities and businesses that did not previously receive funding from the grant program in September.

Following this priority batch, applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve rolling basis until funds have been expended.

Applications will be reviewed for accuracy, eligibility, and completeness by the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the governor’s office.

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Wyoming Legislators Look At Helping Wyoming Meat Processors

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

For all its beef, Wyoming has very few meat processing facilities.

But legislation is being considered at the state and national level aimed at helping Wyoming’s ranchers find new markets for their products.

According to Derek Grant with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, there are nine state-inspected meat plants in Wyoming, from Rock Springs to Jackson to Buffalo and Laramie – in all corners of the state. 

Meanwhile, nine other meat processing companies in Wyoming are regulated by the Food Safety Inspection Service of the USDA, but Grant says most of them are “custom” plants rather than large-scale processors that prepare meat for retail sale. 

There’s only one company in the state – Wyoming Legacy Meats in Cody – that is a USDA-certified slaughter and process facility.

So state legislators during their general session considered several bills aimed at helping ranchers process their animals inside Wyoming.

House Bill 54, which has been approved by both the House and Senate and is awaiting action by Gov. Mark Gordon, calls for for the Wyoming Business Council to support the state’s meat processing industry with loans and grants.

House Bill 51, which is also awaiting Gordon’s signature, would authorize and fund a $20 million state program to expand and enhance Wyoming’s meat processing capabilities.

And Senate File 122 would create the Wyoming Agriculture Authority to promote agriculture in the state, particularly by encouraging the development and expansion of Wyoming meat processing facilities. This bill was awaiting its first full House review on Thursday.

In addition to helping Wyoming meat processing facilities, the bills are all aimed increasing the options available for ranchers looking to distribute their products.

Currently, about 80% of the nation’s meat processing plants are owned by four companies. Those companies have been accused of working together to keep prices paid ranchers for their meat low.

In addition, the closure of one major plant due to the coronavirus last year reduced the nation’s capacity for meat processing, putting a dent in demand for Wyoming meat.

Backers of the three bills said during committee hearings that by helping the meat processing industry in Wyoming, ranchers in the state would have other markets for their products.

But being able to process meat within the state’s borders is just one step. Right now, only facilities inspected by the USDA can sell their products outside Wyoming. 

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is working on a bill to change that.

The bill, known as the Expanding Markets for State-Inspected Meat Processors Act of 2021, would open the doors for local producers to export Wyoming products to additional markets by allowing meat products inspected by state meat and poultry inspection programs to be sold across state lines.

Right now, Wyoming Legacy Meats, which was founded in 2016, is the only USDA-certified slaughter and processing facility in the state — the first since the 1970s. And that company recently received a $2.2 million dollar grant to expand its ability to slaughter and process meat. 

Dr. Frank Schmidt, who with his wife Caety started the business to process their own cattle from the Double Doc Ranch, was moved to found the plant so they could control the product from, in their words, “conception to consumption.”

Cheney’s bill would create dozens of new jobs at Wyoming Legacy Meats alone, according to James Klessens with the economic development organization Forward Cody.

“Meat packing isn’t the sexiest or the prettiest project out there – but most of us still eat meat, and so there’s a real need for it,” Klessens said.

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Wyo Lawmakers Work To Address Wyoming’s Lack Of Meatpacking Plants

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By The Center Square, for Cowboy State Daily

 Lawmakers are moving to fill a COVID-19-created gap in Wyoming’s meat industry with new bills aimed at the state’s processing sector.

In a state that is heavily agricultural with a focus on beef, meat processing plants are few and far between.

House Bills 54 and 51 and Senate File 122 would work to change that.

Until about a year-and-a-half ago, Wyoming did not have any federally inspected slaughter facilities, according to Jim Magagna, executive vice president at Wyoming Stock Growers’ Association.

Even now, the USDA-certified plants the state has are small, he said.

When the pandemic hit and large national facilities shut down, the problem was magnified as producers flocked to small, regional slaughterhouses. Additionally, consumer preference shifted to locally produced food, compounding the logjam.

Wyoming Public Media reports one of those was Wyoming Legacy Meats, where co-owner Frank Schmidt said they quickly became booked out a year in advance. Usually, the waiting list was only a few months.

“So that’s what we were faced with, just a shortage of capacity, and the individual ranchers that wanted to have just an animal processed for their own use often had to schedule a processing date nine months to a year in advance,” Magagna told The Center Square.

The Wyoming Meat Packing Initiative (House Bill 54) directs the Wyoming Business Council to up its game in supporting the state’s agriculture industry specifically through meat processing, Wyoming Public Media reported.

House Bill 51 would create the Wyoming meat processing expansion grant program that would direct money to help expand existing facilities.

The final bill would create the Wyoming Ag Authority, which while driven by the need for beef and lamb, would make loans or grants to facilities developing value-added processing for any Wyoming agriculture products, according to Magagna.

On the national level, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., has introduced a bill to allow state-inspected meat processing plants to sell across state lines.

Magagna explains state facilities are held to the exact same standards as USDA inspected ones; however, they are not allowed to sell outside the state currently.

This bill would open up more markets to Wyoming producers, Magagna said.

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Gov. Gordon Launches Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program

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Gov. Mark Gordon has announced the launch of the Wyoming Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program to provide support for Wyoming meat processing facilities and Wyoming citizens impacted by supply chain disruptions and regional shut-downs of processing facilities resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Governor has appropriated $10 million in Federal CARES Act funds to the program, which seeks to strengthen Wyomings’ local food supply chain and address meat shortages at retail locations and food banks within the state.

Wyoming-based meat processing businesses and nonprofits may submit grant applications for capacity-related improvements made before December 30, 2020. .

“As anyone who has tried to get a beef cut up this year knows, processing in Wyoming is facing significant bottlenecks in 2020. The First Lady’s initiative has seen this across the state,” Gov. Gordon said.

“That is why we have set up the Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program, which will help improve our meat processing capacity and ensure our citizens have access to high-quality products,” he said.

Applications will open September 15, 2020 and be reviewed by a group from the Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and the Governor’s Office.

The grants require a portion of processed and retailable products to be provided to local food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, prisons, schools, or other charitable organizations to help feed hungry or underserved populations.

For additional information on the program, visit the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s website.

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