USDA makes grant money available for local food processors

The USDA is making $215 million in grant money available for independent meat and poultry processors across the country to use in expanding their operations.

As part of the sum, the Minnesota Department Of Agriculture has awarded more than $700,000 in Meat, Poultry, Egg, and Milk Processing Grants to expand operations for independent meat and poultry processors in 2022.

The money will pay for crucial equipment, like meat smokers, coolers and other equipment for Morrison County’s Elmdale Creamery & Locker.

"We applied for it and we were accepted," Michael Gerads told FOX 9 on Tuesday.

In the small town of Bowlus, Minnesota, with a population under 300 people, the Elmdale Creamery & Locker is the place to go to have your meat processed.

Some of general manager Michael Gerads customers travel from more than 30 miles away, and now that he’s been accepted for grant money it will help keep them coming.

"It’s big time," Gerads said. "Especially on our bottom line."

The Elmdale Creamery is just one of at least 15 processors in Minnesota that’s been awarded a grant - money intended to help with the challenges born out of consolidation that’s seen large conglomerates get a hold of the meatpacking industry.

"We got a meat saw, meat grinder, we’re getting a patty maker," Gerads said. The grant will pay off half of the costs of the equipment, which is just over $50,000. And while that’s great for the business, it’s also good news for customers.

"Keeping our cost down, we can keep the price of processing down," Gerads said.