Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.”
As 2020 came to a close, our department was finishing up work to finalize all the documentation for $20.25 million in grants for our Increasing Meat Production Efficiency and Capacity (IMPEC) program. The money for these grants came through the federal CARES ACT funds and are being used to help small meat and seafood processors increase their capacity, which in turn will help livestock producers and fishermen they serve. Already, we are hearing some positive results.
Summary of Talking Points:
A while back, we talked about the Increasing Meat Production Efficiency and Capacity (IMPEC) grant program that we were offering through federal CARES Act funds.
Listeners may remember that small meat and seafood processors could apply for grants to help increase their capacity. We recognized this need since many of these operations quickly reached capacity when consumers looked to local providers for protein products at the beginning of the pandemic. Around April, we were hearing of processors already being booked through early 2021.
When the CARES ACT money became available, there were limitations on how it could be spent and when it had to be spent by. That didn’t give us a lot of time if we were going to make use of it, but I was determined we could put this very good use in North Carolina and we would make that happen.
The long-term benefits for our agricultural community are great, allowing for more local sales of meat, which helps small processors and farmers alike.
I am proud that we were able to quickly put this program together, accept, review and approve applications, and put the money to work.
In all, 57 applications were approved. And I am very proud to report that we are already hearing positive feedback on the program.
One company we worked with is Custom Quality Packers, a pork processing facility in Sims in Wilson County.
It expects to see a 20-percent increase in capacity and sales for 2021 thanks to the grant. In 2019, the operation processed about 55,000 hogs from 12 area farms.
This grant program allowed the company to invest in an automated rail system, cooler upgrades and other equipment that will increase capacity.
Middle Sound Mariculture in Wilmington, also received grant funding to purchase a new oyster tumbler and mobile refrigeration unit.
This investment is going to expand the oyster farm’s capacity, allowing it to expand into new markets. It expects to grow capacity from 8,000 oysters to more than 20,000.
Increasing local production also benefits consumers, giving them more access to locally raised products.
At the beginning of the pandemic when we saw the closure of restaurants and schools, the supply chains had to adjust and adjust quickly. They did adjust and they did a good job of meeting the needs of consumers.
But we also saw consumers looking to farmers markets, roadside stands, and on-farm markets to help meet their needs.
We want to be able to help local farmers continue to serve their communities, and that was the thought behind these processor and seafood grants.
I know we will hear more success stories in the future, so don’t be surprised if we talk about this subject several more times this year.