LITTLE ROCK, Ar. – The CARES Steering Committee on Wednesday recommended an additional $5.4 million to be used for meat processors in the state of Arkansas.
State Senator Missy Irving hopes that the meat shortages from early on in the pandemic won’t repeat themselves once these grants are put to use, she said, “Being able to put out these processing grants and grow that industry gives us the long-term benefit of making sure we don’t have that food interruption during a crisis like what we experienced.”
The industry has settled down after initial panic buying. Many processors though are still backlogged for months. Andy Shaw is the CEO of Cypress Valley Meat Processing and he says they are close to 24 months behind. Cypress Valley, along with many other processors in the state, are not taking wild game this season in order to catch up with their livestock demands,. Shaw said, “We’ve experienced a huge back log since Covid hit and there’s been a meat shortage and also people wanting to buy local and support local and we’ve seen that really accelerate since March.”
Sen Irvin says this will vastly help to expand the processing industry and help not only the processors but also small- to medium-sized livestock operations. Irvin hopes that many processors will be able to expand their operations to handle more product and modernize operations to be more efficient with that product.
She said the farm-to-table concept that was beginning to explode before the pandemic has become more popular and if there are more processors that can sell directly to consumers it will help those outfits greatly. She said, “This really will grow that mom and pop farmers that are out there and give them that opportunity to really have a place to process their meats and be able to sell, perhaps, direct to consumers.”
Shaw agrees with Irvin, “It’s going to allow us to accommodate more farmers, so we’re going to be able to bring in more employees and provide more jobs, but we’re going to be able to better service our current customers and be able to add more and new farmers on to our processing schedule.”
The funds will also go towards 16 total facilities including funding for four mobile processing units, three educational institutions, and two further processing facilities.
Between the first and second rounds of grant funding it will add 250 full-time positions and 73 part-time positions within the processing industry.
The additional $5.4 million is still subject to legislative approval.