The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Carroll-based Region 12 Council of Governments had been selected to receive a $15 million grant from the new Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program.

Region Executive Director Rick Hunsaker says the goal is to increase capacity. “As we saw during the pandemic, you’d have these big plants that would close down or that would make decisions that would impact everybody in the supply chain. The goal I think is not only to increase capacity so that there are more people making products and more places making them so that it can be a little more resilient,” Hunsaker says.

He says more producers also means is increased competition and more markets for producers. He adds the top four processing companies are excluded from the program to achieve those goals. Iowa joins Minnesota and North Carolina as the only states selected for this first round of funding. Hunsaker says the grant will be used as capital to start a revolving loan program for Iowa businesses involved in the meat packing supply chain.

“We’ve heard rumors here and there of start-up lockers, interest in lockers expanding, and certainly we have a lot of producers in this region that could benefit from the increased competition where they might have more markets for their animals or ones that are closer so it’s cheaper to get their product to a producer,” He says. Region 12 primarily includes west central Iowa, but this program is different, as it will be available to eligible applicants throughout the state. Hunsaker says initial funding targets kill facilities or secondary processors, but the program will open further within a few years.

“That would include anybody that is U.S.D.A.-inspected — so it’s going to be big meat packing plants — but not one of the big four. It could also be anybody that is custom-exempt, which as I understand it a lot of county lockers would be that way,” Hunsaker says. “They would be eligible for the funds. Once the moneys are revolved and come back in, it could be anybody in the middle part of that supply chain like wholesaling and aggregators and transportation companies.”

Hunsaker says they are already working with U.S.D.A. to get Region 12’s staff trained on program administration, but it could be after the start of the new year before they are ready to begin accepting applications. Applicants interested in the program are encouraged to contact Region 12 directly for information.

(By Nathan Konz, KCIM, Carroll)

Radio Iowa