Lawmakers Urge Grants For Local Meat Processors

Sep 14, 2020

Credit NPR

The Legislature’s Ag and Natural Resources Committee wants some pandemic relief aid directed to local meat processors.

The committee heard from several processors and ag-industry representatives Monday. It was part of a series of legislative hearings about proposed uses of remaining relief funds.

Cindy Tolle of Sturgis Meats said small processors are struggling to keep up with new demand created by the pandemic.

“We have probably 30 phone calls every day from people that need processing, and we have to say we can’t do it," Tolle said.

But she and other processors who testified said they have plans to expand.

"One of the things that we can do," Tolle said, "with an infusion of capital, we can increase our processing.”

COVID-19 outbreaks at big meatpacking plants have disrupted the nation’s meat supply chain. Tolle said the state could strengthen that chain by helping small processors.

The Ag and Natural Resource Committee wants to create a grant program. The grants would cover equipment, employee training and internships. The recommendation now goes to the Appropriations Committee.

The money would come from $1.25 billion in pandemic aid that state government received from Congress. About half of the money is still up for grabs, and legislators are in talks with the governor about how to spend it.

-Seth Tupper is SDPB's business and economic development reporter