Spanberger Works to Beef Up Food Supply Chains, Hosts USDA Leaders in Orange County to Highlight Major Initiative to Strengthen Market Opportunities for Virginia Cattle & Poultry Industries

Dec 16, 2021
Agriculture
Press

During the Visit, the Congresswoman & USDA Leaders Joined the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association for a Tour of Piedmont Processing & Spoke with Press Following the Tour

GORDONSVILLE, V.A. — U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger today brought U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials to Orange County to meet with Virginia livestock producers and highlight USDA’s announcement of major funding to back private investment in local processing and food supply infrastructure.

Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is deploying $100 million under the new Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program to make available nearly $1 billion in loan guarantees. These investments will help essential processing and supply chain infrastructure that will ultimately deliver more opportunities and fairer prices for farmers, as well as eliminate bottlenecks in the food supply chain. This funding was made available thanks to the American Rescue Plan, which Spanberger voted to pass earlier this year.

This announcement follows Spanberger introducing bipartisan legislation to rebalance the cattle market by easing regulatory barriers and offering USDA meat processing grants for smaller processors looking to expand.

During today’s visit, Spanberger was joined by USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small and USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Moffitt. The officials met with the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association and several additional Virginia farm organizations in Gordonsville, where they toured Knight Cattle Corporation and Piedmont Processing. Following the tour, Spanberger spoke about the importance of supporting small processors, increasing competition in the meat and poultry industries, and making sure American consumers have stronger and cheaper access to food ahead of the holidays — and beyond.

“The livestock and poultry industries bring in millions of dollars to Central Virginia’s economy each year. Unfortunately, ongoing supply chain disruptions threaten this funding stream, as does continued consolidation within the meat industry,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I am so proud to have USDA engaging directly with Virginia’s livestock producers as it works to stimulate private investment in smaller processing facilities. The new Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program is a step in the right direction, and it’s an important step towards the long-term stability and security of America’s food supply. As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I want to thank Under Secretary Torres Small and Under Secretary Moffitt for coming to Orange County today, and I want to express my gratitude to our region’s cattlemen and agribusinesses for sharing their thoughts on how we can increase processing capacity, meet food demand here at home, and keep America’s producers competitive in the global ag economy.”

“The Virginia Cattlemen’s Association appreciates Congresswoman Spanberger’s and USDA’s tireless efforts to make opportunities like the Guaranteed Loan Program possible for our producers,” said Brandon Reeves, Executive Director, Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. “USDA data shows that the cattle farmer’s percent of retail value has fallen from 51.5% in 2015 to only 37.3% in 2020 while the price of beef has skyrocketed along with farmer’s input costs. When you combine that with packers investing in alternative protein, it is increasingly important for us to have increased packing capacity at the local and state level.  We thank the Congresswoman and USDA for creating this program and look forward to seeing local Virginia processing expand.

BACKGROUND

Through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program, USDA will partner with lenders to guarantee loans of up to $40 million to help eligible entities expand meat and poultry processing capacity and finance other food supply chain infrastructure. This program has a 19 percent reserve in place for meat and poultry projects. Lenders may provide the loans to eligible cooperatives, corporations, for profits, nonprofits,Tribal communities, public bodies and people in rural and urban areas.

USDA Rural Development (RD) will administer the loans. Funding may be used to:

  • Start or expand food supply chain activities such as aggregating, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling or distributing food.
  • Address supply chain bottlenecks.
  • Increase capacity and help create a more resilient, diverse and secure American food supply chain.

Spanberger has continued to bring USDA officials to Central Virginia to meet directly with Virginians, hear about challenges faced during the Commonwealth’s economic recovery, and gather feedback about federal relief measures like the American Rescue Plan. 

In October 2021, Spanberger brought Under Secretary Torres Small to Goochland County to meet with local officials and discuss a major investment in USDA’s Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program.

In June 2021, Spanberger hosted USDA Secretary Vilsack in Amelia County for a roundtable discussion with Central Virginia farmers, producers, and agribusinesses — including on the topic of broadband internet access.

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