Due to market and supply/demand changes for meat products during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is helping livestock farmers and processors in addressing these current challenges.

The recent closures of some meat processing plants around the region due to COVID-19 is disrupting traditional animal markets and the meat supply chain. The MDA is working to limit this disruption for producers of smaller herds or flocks by matching them with slaughter facilities and identifying other marketing opportunities.

Farmers with smaller herds or flocks seeking new processors, alternate markets or increased storage, are encouraged to contact Jim Ostlie, by calling (320) 842-6910 or sending an e-mail to Jim.Ostlie@state.mn.us or Courtney VanderMey at (651) 201-6135 or Courtney.Vandermey@state.mn.us.

The MDA is working with existing “equal to” processors (plants under continuous inspection that are able to produce and process meat and poultry products for wholesale within the State of Minnesota) to expand capacity. It is also developing an expedited approval process to enable plants that currently do not sell wholesale within the state to do so. If these establishments meet the minimum requirements, they will be granted a 90-day provisional grant of inspection.

Processing plants interested in expanding their slaughter capacity, have additional processing capacity or wanting expedited licensing, are encouraged to contact Jennifer Stephes at (651) 248-2566.

The MDA is providing additional assistance by awarding more than $345,000 in AGRI Value-Added Grants to nine Minnesota meat processors. The companies will be using the funds for facility improvements, such as in-creasing freezer space and new equipment for slaughter and processing capacity. 

Many of these grantees are required to make updates to be compliant with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FRAM). This new funding is in addition to the nearly $1 million in value-added grants in FY20, in which meat processors received a significant amount of the total grant funds.

A new grant program, the AGGRI rapid response mini-grant for livestock processing, is intended to assist processors and certain producers respond to market issues being caused by COVID-19. This grant will be launched by April 30 and will be available to eligible Minnesota processors of meat, poultry, eggs and milk and to livestock producers who need storage capacity for processed products until existing markets return or new markets are developed.