Dozens of small meat processors share in first
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Dozens of small meat processors share in first

Jul 14, 2023

Tubes of fresh-ground hamburger await shipment from a small meatpacking plant in Oakland, which received a state grant this week. (Courtesy of Kylie Kai, Center for Rural Affairs)

LINCOLN — For 39 years, Pelican's Meat Processing has been the custom slaughterhouse of choice in the southeast Nebraska farm town of Johnson.

This week, owners learned the processor will be among dozens of small locker plants that will receive grants of up to $80,000 to help bolster the state's ability to process beef, pork and other livestock.

Sandie Lavigne, whose father, Frank Pelican, owns the Johnson business, said that money could help address a problem many small businesses face today — a shortage of workers.

"There's six of us, when we’re all here," Lavigne said.

The $80,000 grant awarded to Pelican's Meat Processing could be used to purchase a new meat wrapping machine, she said, or to help pay off a loan for a new carcass cooler.

Either one could make working at the locker plant a little easier for the mostly older workforce Lavigne said is available in the Nemaha County area.

Earlier this week, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture announced a total of $4.9 million in grants to 64 meat processing facilities across the state via the state's Independent Processor Assistance Program.

The program was launched this spring by the Nebraska Legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts. It utilizes $10 million of the state's $1 billion allocation from President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act, a federal effort to jump-start an economy slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program targets small meat processors like Pelican's with fewer than 25 employees and less than $2.5 million in yearly sales — businesses that struggled to pick up the slack when processing at larger, corporate slaughtering facilities fell behind during the pandemic.

Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said the grants will help Nebraska livestock producers and meat processors strengthen the nation's food supply.

"Through these grants, meat processing facilities can implement projects that will benefit meat processing efforts," Wellman said in a press release. "These grants serve as a reminder that Nebraska is committed to the meat processing industry, and we value its importance to agriculture."

One supporter of the grant program, Johnathan Hladik of the Center for Rural Affairs, said Wednesday that these small meat processors did not receive the state and federal support that their much larger counterparts enjoyed, though they dealt with the exact same challenges.

"We understood the sacrifices local lockers had to make," Hladik said, which is why they supported creation of the grant program.

In total, the Ag Department will award approximately $9.8 million in grants through the Independent Processor Assistance Program.

A second round of grants will be allocated in the first half of 2023, until funding is gone.

Previous recipients will be eligible to apply in subsequent rounds, but preference will be given to applications not awarded funding previously, a Ag Department spokeswoman said.

For additional information, contact Breanna Wirth, NDA Legislative Coordinator, at 402-890-1509 or [email protected]

First-round r ecipients that got $80,000 each: 4 His Glory, Hay Springs; Ace & Ida Inc., Ord; AK Meats LLC, Naper; Albion Locker, Albion; ASC Lockers, West Point; B and J Main Street Market, Humphrey; B & B Locker, Wynot; B.I.G. Meats, Omaha; Belschner Meats, Amherst; Borchard Custom Cuts, Benkelman; Busy Bones Butcher, Cozad; C.R. Packing, Gordon; Cedar Rapids Locker, Cedar Rapids; C&G Wild Game Processing, LLC, Seneca; Chuckwagon Meats, Arthur; Cornelius Butchery, Pickrell; Cornhusker Beef Company, Johnson; Country Butcher, Humphrey; Den's Country Meats, Table Rock; Diller Locker, Diller; Elmwood Meat Plant, Elmwood; Flat Water Meats, Snyder; Franklin Locker, Franklin; Gentert Packing, Holstein; Grant Packing, Grant; HD Processing dba Blue River Meats, Crete; Hearty Rancher, Paxton; Homeland Processing, Niobrara: Husker Meats, Ainsworth; Jansen's Custom Cut, Rushville; KB Quality Meat, Blair; Kelley's Custom Pack, North Platte; McLean Beef, York; M-K Meats, Unadilla; NE Family, Springview; Nelson's Butcher Shop, Ceresco; North Bend Locker, North Bend; Oakland Meat Processing, Oakland; Patriot Beef, Deshler; Pelican's Meat, Johnson; Pickrell Locker, Pickrell; Polk Locker, Polk; Prairie Processing, Paxton; R & M Meats, Norfolk; Ravenna Locker, Ravenna, Rodriguez Brothers Processing, Mitchell; Table Top Meats, Hemingford; The Rusty Butcher, Central City; Twin Cities Pack, Gering; Twin Loups Quality Meats, St. Paul; Valentine Locker, Valentine; Wahoo Locker, Wahoo; Whiskey Creek Critters, Fordyce; Wildcat Locker Inc., Filley; Willow Creek Meats, McCook; Winfield Foods, Aurora.

Grant recipients that received other amounts: Faltin Meat Market, Howells, $66,000; Fremont Meat Market, Fremont, $79,176: Melcher's Locker, Lindsay, $19,000: Oxford Locker, Oxford, $75,000; Shelton Locker, Shelton, $17,500; Steve's Butcher Shop, Doniphan, $32,000; Fairfield Butcher Shop, Fairfield, $75,000; Wausau Lockers, Wausau, $70,000.

by Paul Hammel, Nebraska Examiner September 14, 2022

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Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

First-round r ecipients that got $80,000 each Grant recipients that received other amounts