Two weeks ago, we asked you to “Tell Congress: No more COVID-19-contaminated factory farm slaughterhouses!”
Members of Congress listened!
On May Day, Reps. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation to help small farmers during the COVID-19 crisis by, among other things, making it easier for them to get grants to process grass-fed and pasture-raised meat.
As COVID-19 outbreaks shut down factory farm slaughterhouses across the U.S., producers of organic regenerative pasture-raised and grass-fed meat are trying to fill the void.
But for small farmers, getting their meat processed is challenging because there are so few local and regional processing facilities.
As one Oklahoma rancher told CNN:
“We're at a very critical situation. I've been saying for years, Congress needs to step in and regulate these huge, multinational processors. We have just ignored all of our antitrust laws for many, many years, allowed all of this consolidation and mergers to happen, and even foreign ownership now.
The government's just let this happen over a long period of time. We need to break up the monopoly of the processing, and go back to a more regional-style or local-style of processing.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture already provides grants to help farmers and ranchers with “value-added” activities, such as the processing and marketing of their products.
But under the current Value-Added Producer Grants program, farmers have to put up 50 percent of the project’s total cost before they can qualify for a matching grant. Most small farmers can’t come up with that kind of cash. Under H.R. 6682, they wouldn’t have to.
Last month, Congress signed into law a COVID-19 stimulus package that included $23 billion for agriculture—but much of that money went to Big Ag corporations, not the small independent farmers who are stepping up to feed their communities as the corporate ag supply chain is falling apart.
We should be helping small producers—not Big Meat—so we can accelerate the transition away from industrial meat and corporate control of the U.S. meat supply, to a more resilient local and regional system of grass-fed and pasture-raised meat production.
One way to do that is to give all small producers access to Value-Added Producer Grants, without requiring struggling independent farmers to come up with a huge pile of money on their own before being able to qualify for a grant.
Value-Added Producer Grants have helped many producers of grass-fed and pasture-raised meat harvest their animals themselves in on-farm or cooperatively-owned abattoirs. COVID-19 has shown us how urgently we need to expand this network of local and regional meat processing facilities so that we can support farmers who are committed to humane, responsible, regenerative food production.