What is the Oregon Meat Processing Infrastructure and Capacity Building Grant Program?
This fund was created by the passage of HB2785 in the 2021 Oregon Legislative Session. This bill, which we worked with Representative Brock-Smith to pass, creates a $2M grant fund for the improvement/expansion/construction of meat processing facilities that meet the new State Meat Processing Inspection standards (or expand facilities that are currently USDA inspected). COVID 19 highlighted a long standing problem with our infrastructure. There are not enough meat processing facilities in our state (neither USDA inspected nor custom exempt) to keep up with the demand our local producers have for their products.
Oregon’s family farmers are raising some amazing pastured meat products, but there simply aren’t enough processing facilities in Oregon for them to get their meat to market on time. Our farmers have faced 12-18 month wait times for processing appointments and many have reported having to delay planned expansions of their businesses, turn away customers, refund paid orders or even make the hard choice to cull their herds because they can’t get the processed in a way that would make selling the meat legal.
This grant fund is meant to jump start the expansion and construction of the facilities that will help begin to solve this problem. We know $2M is not enough to make a big dent, facilities like these often cost millions of dollars to get up and running, but it is somewhere to start. The success of this program could inspire the Oregon Legislature, Governor’s Office and ODA to continue to put resources toward this problem to make a difference for our food system.
What FoFF thinks of the Draft Rules
FoFF was present at many of the ODA Stakeholder meetings organized around this project as well as the many other committee meetings where this issue was discussed. Our producers got the chance to bring their voices directly to these groups to express their needs and when they were too busy with their day to day farming responsibilities, we brought their concerns for them. We are happy to see much of our feedback incorporated into the draft rules, especially the terms about preference being given to facilities that fill gaps in the system and that these facilities must be expanding capacity specifically for animals raised in Oregon.
We do however want to see a few changes to make sure that this funding would be used to benefit the farmers who FoFF serves and who brought this issue to our attention. In particular, the three things that we would like to see changed upon first reading of the draft rules are:
- The mandatory inclusion of someone with experience working in processing with small scale producers on the Grant Review Team.
- Explicit definition of the “gaps” that a facility could fill in order to receive priority in the selection process. These gaps should include service for small and specialty producers (Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, or Hallal) explicitly in addition to species and geographic concerns.
- Release of the grant evaluation criteria with the RFP in order to make the process more equitable for prospective or expanding processors who do not have experience with grant writing or the resources to hire professional help.
We will be submitting comments including these points so that we can make it clear that this funding should be used to change the status quo in meat processing, not reinforce it. We are grateful for all the opportunities to participate in the process and look forward on engaging on this draft to make more opportunities for our farmers.
How to get involved
Read the draft rules here. If you would be impacted by this grant fund or the facilities it will create, consider attending the hearing or submitting written comment. If you’d like help writing your comments or want to talk this through please email our Organizational Director Alice Morrison: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please send written comments by postal mail or email no later than 5:00 pm on December 22, 2021
Oregon Department of Agriculture
635 Capitol St NE
Salem, OR 97301
Wednesday, December 15, 2021 – 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Microsoft Teams meeting
Join on your computer or mobile app
Or call in (audio only)
+1 503-446-4951,,1834822# United States, Portland
Phone Conference ID: 183 482 2#