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Montana Meat Processors Association

Area meat processors meeting for CARES funding opportunities


News Staff - September 9, 2020

RAPID CITY, SD – The availability of over $1 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARE) funding in South Dakota is being seriously pursued by some local meat processors across the state.

A meeting has been set for Thursday, Sept. 10th at Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City beginning at 6:00pm to gather input from the public, meat processors and others regarding the opportunity to apply for CARE money from the state that must be allocated by the end of the year or be returned to the federal government.

Gary Baker is a rancher and feeder near Hermosa, SD.   “We’ve been  ranching and feeding cattle for years and selling directly to individuals.  During the beginning of the pandemic, we were really swamped and couldn’t get any beef in because there was so much demand,” he says.  “It brought a lot of people around to realizing that the food supply chain isn’t as strong as they thought it was.  And that we shouldn’t be relying on a few big packers to get our protein needs.”

According to Baker, District 30 Representative Julie Frye Mueller of Rapid City is among those organizing the meeting that will include other legislative committee members.

Bruce Anderson with the Western Buffalo Company in Rapid City says the pandemic exposed some weaknesses from big packers and their business model and also revealed a growing need for the smaller meat processors.  “States like North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wyoming  have all given grants ranging from $5 to $10 million from CARES money for these small meat guys.”

He adds,  “These local plants are really hard to keep up.  They are really expensive to try and remodel.  Most facilities have infrastructure and equipment needs that CARE funding could address while solving some problems in the ag community by doing a better job in processing and packaging for ranchers and consumers alike.”

Public meetings such as the one scheduled for Sept. 10 are an opportunity, says Anderson. "I expect the South Dakota Department of Agriculture to pay attention to this.  If they have a reason they don’t want to support local meat lockers, we need to know that.  But as a group we need to be heard.”



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