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Landkamer: Building more equitable access to USDA resources

"To help our nation thrive in the wake of the pandemic, we need rural communities filled with jobs, businesses, good housing and opportunities for growth," Colleen Landkamer writes. "That is where small and midsize meat processors can help uplift rural economies."

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Colleen Landkamer is the Rural Development Minnesota State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture.
Contributed / United States Department of Agriculture
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After serving 25 years on the Blue Earth County Board of Commissioners and eight years as Rural Development State Director under President Obama, my passion for getting to know and represent the needs of rural communities continues to grow. Armed with this knowledge and drive, I look forward to helping build back a better rural America under President Biden’s leadership.

USDA is working to provide everyone equitable access to federal resources. That means making more things here at home, strengthening our supply chains and lowering costs for working families. It means giving people opportunities to make a good living without having to leave the communities they know and love.

One way USDA is expanding opportunities is by making $215 million available for the expansion of meat and poultry processing by eligible processors.

When we think about building a more equitable food and agriculture system, we need to consider the needs of everyone, including those in rural and remote communities. It’s become increasingly clear that local and regional food systems are largely supported by rural communities. To help our nation thrive in the wake of the pandemic, we need rural communities filled with jobs, businesses, good housing and opportunities for growth. That is where small and midsize meat processors can help uplift rural economies.

The new Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) provides grants to help eligible processors expand their capacity. USDA Rural Development designed the MPPEP to encourage competition and sustainable growth in the U.S. meat processing sector, and to help improve supply chain resiliency.

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When the pandemic disrupted food and agriculture systems, USDA Rural Development was there, supporting critical infrastructure and small businesses with essential programs designed to help fund great projects.

Sole proprietor businesses or other entities that engage — or want to engage — in meat and poultry processing may apply for MPPEP grants. Businesses and entities that may apply include federally recognized tribes, for- and nonprofit entities, corporations, producer-owned cooperatives and corporations, certified benefit corporations and state or local government entities. Private entities must be independently owned and operated. All entities must be domestically owned, and their meat and poultry processing facilities (existing or planned) must be physically located and operated within the U.S. or its territories.

Grant funds can be used to expand processing capacity by supporting activities such as building new processing facilities, modernizing processing facilities, developing, installing or modernizing equipment and technology. Grants may also be used to ensure compliance with packaging and labeling requirements, to pay for voluntary grading services on value-added processed products, and to support workforce recruitment, training and retention.

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, USDA announced last December that approximately $1 billion in loan guarantees are also available for meat and poultry processors and food supply chain infrastructure. These loan guarantees will back private investment in processing and food supply infrastructure. See more program details at rd.usda.gov/food-supply-chain-guaranteed-loans .

The application deadline to apply for a MPPEP grant was recently extended to 11:59 p.m. EST on May 11, 2022 .

I encourage interested applicants to reach out to our local program contact Andrew Gag at Andrew.gag@usda.gov with any questions or application assistance. For assistance on any of the other 50-plus programs that Rural Development offers, you may contact our local agency staff .

When Minnesota’s rural communities — regardless of their economic status — have clean water, a stable supply chain for food, affordable homes and jobs, our nation is more secure. Because together, we can build back a better America.

Colleen Landkamer is the Rural Development Minnesota State Director for the United States Department of Agriculture.

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This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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