agricultural association calls on USDA to protect small meat processors | Livestock
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on August 30 expressed its recommendations for a resilient, diverse and safe meat processing system. Specifically, NASDA said flexible funding for solutions to labor shortages and investments in processing infrastructure for small and medium-sized meat processing facilities is essential to ensure that our food system is designed to meet future challenges.
Twenty-seven state agriculture departments operate meat and poultry inspection programs covering approximately 1,900 small or very small establishments. State agricultural departments are the only entities certified to inspect meat other than the United States Department of Agriculture. Nationally, NASDA members report that small establishments face significant challenges with shortages of inspectors and workers.
“After reassembling our food supply chains in response to every obstacle that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, NASDA members deeply understand the connection between production diversity and the resilience of the food system,” said NASDA CEO Barb Glenn. “We need to do everything we can to support our small meat processors now and invest in their ability to fend for themselves in the future. “
To reduce the impact of labor shortages and recruit more workers, NASDA recommends using USDA funding to offset employment costs, invest in workforce training programs. and provide apprenticeship programs for small processing plants.
“First and foremost, we need to make sure our small meat processors are protected from the instability that understaffing and turnover produce,” said Glenn. “Without the foundation of a secure and skilled workforce, small processors are destined to face all the other challenges in the market. “
NASDA members also report high capital costs and outdated facilities as a major concern for small and medium-sized meat processors. In its comments, NASDA recommended providing funding for new equipment to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of small operations in addition to training on proactive food safety protocols and the operation of modernized facilities.
Additionally, as USDA seeks to establish partners and new funding opportunities to support meat processors, NASDA urges USDA to recognize state departments of agriculture as exceptional resources.
“When funding is dedicated to state and local governments, state agricultural departments are better able to stabilize disruptions in the local supply chain and continue to provide essential services to farmers, ranchers and communities,” Glenn said.
In its comments, NASDA also intentionally asked the USDA to create opportunities with flexible funding structures to allow especially areas outside the continental states to participate in programs implemented by the federal government. For example, states like Alaska, Hawaii, and the four U.S. territories have experienced very different supply chain disruptions. The ability of NASDA members to use CARES law funding for their specific state needs saved rural communities from economic harm.