Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced legislation to increase competition and capacity in the meat processing industry. The Butcher Block Act would create grant and loan opportunities through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enable small and mid-sized meat processing facilities to expand their operations. U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-N.D.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Colorado’s livestock production sits at the heart of our $47 billion agriculture sector, but too many producers struggle to find local or regional processing options,” said Bennet. “Congress should make it easier and more cost effective for Colorado's family farmers and ranchers to bring their animals to market. Our bipartisan legislation strengthens local food systems, increases competition, and helps lower prices for Americans."
“High prices don’t just drive up price tags at the grocery store, but also result in higher input costs for ranchers and meat processors,” said Moran. “Providing resources to allow smaller processors to upgrade and expand their operations will make it easier for ranchers to bring their cattle to market. This legislation will help eliminate waste, support small businesses and provide consumers with more affordable options at the grocery store.”
The Butcher Block Act would:
- Improve competition and capacity in rural areas by authorizing USDA loans and loan guarantees to increase and modernize small and medium meat processing and rendering facilities.
- Include eligibility for cooperatives that are producer-owned and eligible for refinancing
- Create a new USDA grant program to expand, diversify, and increase resilience in meat processing and rendering facilities by:
- Helping facilities receive technical assistance to manage and train a new workforce;
- Helping small and medium-sized facilities achieve compliance with state and federal regulations; and
- Developing new innovative or mobile facilities to improve local and regional access to processing and rendering services.
“USCA thanks Senators Moran and Bennet for their support and sponsorship of the Butcher Block Act of 2023,” said Justin Tupper, President, U.S. Cattlemen’ Association (USCA). “This legislation would give USDA the tools they need to diversify and increase resilience in our nation’s food supply system. Those tools include awarding loans and loan guarantees to eligible entities, along with incentivizing new, innovative, or mobile enterprises to increase or improve local and regional meat processing and rendering.”
“The National Bison Association appreciates and supports the legislation being introduced by Sen. Moran and Sen. Bennet to develop and expand our nation's processing infrastructure,” said Jim Matheson, Executive Director, National Bison Association. “As consumers discover the great taste and health benefits of uniquely American bison meat, the need for increased bison processing grows too and this bill will address that need."
“The North American Renderers Association welcomes today’s introduction of the Butcher Block Act,” said Kent Swisher, President and CEO, North American Renderers Association. “While Congress and the Administration have previously provided funding and support for the expansion of our country’s meat and poultry processing capacity, this bill is the first of its kind that acknowledges the critical role of rendering as the safe and sustainable method of upcycling the parts of the animal and birds that are not consumed by humans. We thank Senators Moran and Bennet for recognizing that expanding meat processing capacity in the U.S. also requires expanding our country’s rendering capacity in order to safely and hygienically process the meat we don’t eat, reducing food waste, so it doesn’t end up in our landfills and waterways.”
The legislation is also supported by the Colorado Wool Growers and the American Sheep Industry Association.
Bennet has worked with Moran to protect and improve meat processing and other agricultural processing facilities in Colorado and across the country. In September 2020, Bennet and Moran cosponsored the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act to provide grants to meat processors to expand their markets. In March 2021, Bennet and Moran secured $100 million for overtime fee relief for small meatpackers in the American Rescue Plan modeled after the senators’ Small Packer and Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief Act.
The text of the bill is available HERE.