OLYMPIA… During the height of the COVID pandemic, State Sen. Judy Warnick worked to secure funding for a bourgeoning and much needed alternative to large meat processing facilities who were hit hard by the virus. Closures around the country led to shocks in the meat supply causing prices to spike and supply to plummet. In 2020, industry experts estimated that meat production, particularly of beef and pork, dropped 30 percent.
Warnick, R-Moses Lake, sponsored Senate Bill 5045, which the Senate approved, but the legislation died in the House. She was able to work the proposal into the state’s 2021-2023 budget which established a grant program to increase access to meat and poultry processing and inspection opportunities.
Now, the state Department of Agriculture has announced the grant application process is open, providing capacity-building funds to small and midsized operations.
“I’m pleased that this innovation is coming online and available to smaller producers in our state,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake. “COVID highlighted vulnerabilities in our food system that needed reform. Hopefully these grants will build that capacity we need to diminish the impacts of possible future disruptions. Done right, it will mean more opportunity for small business and more local options for consumers.”
According to a news release from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the grant is for, “entities that can offer increased availability of meat or poultry slaughter or processing services needed by direct-marketing Washington farms and ranches.” The goal is to make targeted investments to boost efficiency, improve food safety, livestock welfare and workforce training.
Warnick is urging producers to get their applications in. Grants for small projects of up to $150,000 are due Feb. 28 and larger projects from $150,000 to $750,000 are due March 7.
For more information you can visit the WSDA grant webpage for guidelines, forms and additional information.
WSDA is also hosting a virtual informational session this Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 9.am. You can sign-up here to receive the Zoom link.