The Delaware Farm Bureau has started a Livestock Taskforce to better understand the need for an additional federally inspected processing plant, regulations involved, costs, and best practices for a processing plant. Information collected from this taskforce will help educate government officials and legislators on this supply chain issue for agriculture in Delaware. Grants are available to study this need, and the potential market to propose a solution. There is also a bill in the U.S. Congress that would provide forgivable loans to help custom processors upgrade to a federal inspected facility.
What Delaware Farm Bureau has heard from our livestock farmers is that during the spring of this year, COVID-19 outbreaks forced many of the nation’s largest meatpacking plants to close including four in neighboring Pennsylvania. These plant closures meant no buyers for livestock at local sales barns.
As grocery shelves were being emptied by panic buying, Delawareans like many Americans, were searching for local sources of meat. But the local meat processing facility in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore quickly became booked with additional times well into next year.
It became frustrating for Delaware farmers when they couldn’t process their locally raised animals and had customers who wanted to buy it.
While the large meat packing plants throughout the country have reopened and meats are available on supermarkets shelves, the sign of hope to livestock farmers during this COVID-19 pandemic is the attention it brought to the challenges in the local food supply chain.
As Delaware farmers tell us, the interest in locally raised fruits, vegetables and meats has grown throughout Delaware. This interest skyrocketed during the early days of the pandemic and has remained strong. Unfortunately, for farmers who raise livestock, Delaware has only one USDA meat inspection processing plant. The lack of an additional federal meat processing facility has caused farmers to travel out of state to processing plants that also have schedules that are a year out. This obstacle in the meat processing food supply chain has limited Delaware farmers when they could be expanding their herd and supply the increased demand for local raised meat.
The options for Delaware farmers are not sustainable since they must haul their livestock further away from their farm, sell at auctions, or reduce their herd size to meet the processing schedule availability.
If this meat processing issue is of interest to you, contact the Delaware Farm Bureau at 302-697-3183 to join the Livestock Taskforce to work on a solution.