North Dakota Farmers Union members and area processors today met with Xochitl Torres Small, USDA’s undersecretary for rural development, to discuss meat processing expansion in the state.
Torres Small listened to concerns from regional processors and cattle producers over market concentration, labor shortages, supply chain issues and grant funding.
“We’re hoping to support folks to create broader (processing) options for farmers and ranchers in a way that supports the local economy,” Torres Small said. “And we want feedback on how that could best fit with your operations.”
USDA is investing $1 billion to promote competition and resilience in meat supply chains. The assistance includes gap funding for establishment and expansion of independent processors, and technical assistance and workforce development programs. During the meeting, NDFU, cattle producers and independent processors underscored the need for that support and provided feedback on the initiative.
“Developing more local and regional processing facilities and stronger supply chains is a win for farmers, ranchers and consumers,” said NDFU President Mark Watne. “We need more opportunities and options to market our products especially in ag sectors that are heavily concentrated like the meatpacking industry. Increasing processing in North Dakota will give farmers and ranchers more opportunities to add value to livestock in their own operation.”
Torres Small’s visit to North Dakota is her first since her confirmation by the U.S. Senate in October 2021. Joining Torres Small and Watne were Sen. John Hoeven, USDA Rural Development State Director Erin Hill-Oban and USDA Farm Service Agency State Director Marcy Svenningsen.
To draw attention to market concentration and the need for fair markets in agriculture, Farmers Union launched a nationwide campaign last September called “Fairness for Farmers.” Learn more at #FairnessForFarmers or ndfu.org.