New grant program seeks to boost Ohio meat processing capacity

By Matt Reese

Local processing capacity has long been a challenge for Ohio’s livestock producers. The issue has been really brought to the forefront since March of 2020 and the onset of the pandemic. A new Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program will help address the issue. The first come, first serve application process opened up in December for grants of up to $250,000 for Ohio livestock and poultry processors to expand and improve operations. 

“This program provides grants of up to $250,000 to Ohio livestock and poultry processors so they can implement processing efficiencies, expand or construct facilities at existing sites, assist in training and certification, and improve harvest services,” said Brandon Kern, senior director of state and national policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. “We were really successful at the state level in Ohio this year getting some financial resources into the budget bill to help small and medium meat processors to be able to expand their facilities and their capacity in a new grant program that just went live. Those small and medium processors have access to additional dollars if they want to expand their processing facility, need to add cold storage or train their work force. That has been a big issue for some of these small and medium processors, having to train the work force to come in to do the job. We are really proud of that accomplishment and I think that is something our membership wants us to build upon in the next year.”

The need for something like the Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program has been evident for years.

“This is something we have been working on for several years in the state of Ohio. It is so important to our producers,” Kern said. “Even pre-pandemic, this had been an issue that was percolating. We have capacity needs, particularly when you are talking about small and medium-sized processors. Part of the issue is that most of the meat processing in this country is very concentrated amongst four very large meat packers and two of those are foreign owned. This presents some real food security issues. We saw that this can create some real issues in the supply chain when we saw some of these facilities shut down or have productivity issues. We saw back-ups in the whole supply chain. We had cattle producers and hog producers and others where the whole supply chain was backed up and they couldn’t move animals off the farm because of the reduced capacity with our meat processors.”

Grants through the new program can be used to reimburse businesses for the following costs: 

  • New/upgraded machinery/equipment.
  • New/upgraded technology products.
  • Personnel training costs.
  • Plant construction/expansion — confinement.
  • Plant construction/expansion — processing.
  • Plant construction/expansion — refrigeration.
  • Food safety certification costs.
  • Cooperative interstate shipment program costs. 

The Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program was created by House Bill 110 of the 134th General Assembly to provide the grants, administered by the Ohio Department of Development (ODD). The grants will be used by successful applicants to improve processing efficiencies, expand or construct facilities at existing sites, assist in training and certification, and improve harvest services. 

To be eligible for the program:

  • The applicant business is the owner or operator of a meat processing facility located in Ohio 
  • The meat processing facility identified in the application was in operation as of July 1, 2021 
  • The meat processing facility identified in the application provides processing services for livestock and/or poultry producers 
  • The applicant business is a for-profit entity (corporation, LLC, partnership, joint venture, sole proprietor)
  • The applicant business is in good standing with the Ohio Secretary of State, the Ohio Department of Taxation, and any other governmental entity charged with regulating the business. 

Program funds may not be used for the following expenses: 

  • Improvements to personal residences, nonfarm commercial property, and any other nonfarm structures
  • Agricultural tractors, motorized vehicles, and other mobile equipment with an internal combustion engine 
  • Land purchases. 

Submitting an application for funding does not guarantee that grant funds will be awarded. Any costs incurred by applicants prior to receiving an award notification will be done at their own risk. To apply businesses can visit: Development.Ohio.Gov/MeatProcessing. The following information will be required in the application:

  1. Business Tax ID
  2. Applicant business name, as registered with the Ohio Secretary of State 
  3. Applicant mailing address 
  4. Federal or State Meat Processing Registration Number 
  5. Ohio Secretary of State Registration Number 
  6. Applicant contact name 
  7. Applicant contact phone 
  8. Applicant contact email 
  9. Facility address 
  10. Grant-Eligible Project Costs, including documentation to verify costs. 
  11. Total project cost 
  12. Narrative description of how the applicant will finance the remaining project costs if total costs exceed the grant amount requested, including documentation to verify other sources 
  13.  Narrative description of the project and how grant funds will be utilized to improve the applicant’s processing efficiencies, expand existing facilities or construct new facilities, or assist with food safety certification or obtaining cooperative interstate shipment status 
  14. Narrative description of how the project will improve harvest services for livestock and poultry producers 
  15. Project timeline, including the date by which all improvements are planned to be completed 
  16. Current full-time equivalent employees at project location 
  17. Current total annual payroll of the full-time equivalent employees at project location 
  18. Anticipated new full-time equivalent employees at project location as a result of the project 
  19. Anticipated new full-time equivalent employee average wage at project location.

Upon submission of a complete application, including all required attachments, the applicant will receive an email from ODD confirming that the application has been received. If funding remains available at the time the application is filed, ODD staff will review and score the application to determine eligibility for a grant. 

If an application is approved for an award, the applicant will be required to enter into a grant agreement with Development. Failure to execute the agreement within 60 days of receipt of an award notification may result in revocation and reallocation of funds.

Upon execution of a grant agreement with ODD, applicants will receive an initial disbursement equal to 50% of grant funds awarded. The remaining 50% of grant funds awarded will be disbursed as the project moves forward.

Meat processing plants receiving an award are required to maintain the equipment, technology, plant expansion, or new construction in working and serviceable order for a period of 5 years after the awarding of the grant. Accordingly, awardees will be required to submit annual reports providing information such as any processing efficiencies recognized as a result of the grant, the status of expansion/construction projects, food safety certifications and cooperative interstate shipment status, and observed improvements to harvest services, jobs and payroll.

Much more information on the Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program is available at:  

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