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Butcher Block Act seeks help for small meat processors

Dick's Country Butcher shop serves patrons in southeast South Dakota.
Dick's Country Butcher shop serves patrons in southeast South Dakota.

A U.S. congressman from South Dakota is proposing legislation to create more opportunities for small meat processors.

The legislation is from Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson.

“We have four large packers that control about 80 percent of the meat processing in this country," Johnson said, "and just 12 physical locations where half of meat is processed."

With the Butcher Block Act, small and upcoming meat processors would receive government loans for expansion and increasing operation capacity. Johnson said large plants would be excluded from the program.

Rapid City is currently proposed as the site for a $1.1 billion processing plant. If built, the plant would be the largest of its kind in the U.S.

However, in East River, there are concerns among residents over proposed meat processing plants in Sioux Falls. Currently, there is a petition against new plants within city limits. The petition will need 6,000 signatures to get on the ballot in November.

Johnson said his bill is intended to support small producers without dictating plant locations.

“Where these plants are located, that is for local communities to decide,” Johnson said.

The House Agriculture Committee recently passed the bill and sent it to the full House of Representatives.

Marissa Brunkhorst is a junior at the University of South Dakota. She is from Hutchinson, Minnesota and is based out of the Vermillion studio.