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Advocates Make Case for Expanding Main Street Meat Lockers

Advocates for independent rural farmers are urging state lawmakers to beef up mom-and-pop meat processing and storage capacity using American Rescue Plan dollars.

Johnathan Hladik, policy director at the Center for Rural Affairs, said local producers need alternatives to JBS and Tyson, and investing in main-street lockers will help rural economies recover from the pandemic's economic fallout. It would also help more families across the state access humanely raised, high-quality meat.

"And you know where it came from," Hladik emphasized. "When you're buying hamburger from Walmart, you do not know what animals were involved with that, you don't know what countries they are from. And when you buy from a local farmer, it's going to be cost competitive, and you get the satisfaction of supporting your local community."

Hladik noted shovel-ready projects to increase locker capacity include building out wastewater infrastructure, adding freezer space, purchasing machinery and investing in training and apprenticeship programs. Hladik's group is working with Sen. Tom Brandt, R-Plymouth, to deliver investment recommendations to Nebraska's Appropriations Committee in the upcoming session.