EMERGING ISSUE: Processing solutions needed to alleviate bottlenecks

Local producers are waiting months to process meaning less food for their communities

Are you an Illinois farmer experiencing the effects of the livestock processing bottleneck?

We are seeking farmers who would benefit from a conversation with other local Illinois producers about the current bottleneck situation and ideas for potential solutions.
Join us on Zoom on Sunday August 2nd at 7:00pm to talk to producers in Illinois. 

The Problem:

  • Too much consolidation in the supply chain and not enough small-scale  processors to support demand. Illinois processors are doing all they can to support the demand, there are simply too few of them
  • Lack of state and federal support and scale-appropriate regulations to facilitate the success of small-scale processing.
  • Hard to get a finished product — producers who are able to get an appointment are stuck with that date, regardless if their animal is fully matured or not
  • Without a processing date, the animals continue to grow and eat costing a producer more money and ending up with a different, aged product than originally planned

Potential Solution:

  • Small Plant Grant Program – creates new grant program to provide reimbursement grants to help cover costs associated with meeting Federal inspection guidelines for small and very small plants
  • Allow more on-farm processing through the development of scale-appropriate regulations and exemptions
  • Exploring the IDOA’s Poultry exemption for your operation 
  • Ideas welcome!

Full Story:

Close your eyes. Imagine walking through your local farmers market. You stop to visit your favorite local meat producer but their spot is empty. A week goes by – then two – still no sign.

After being absent for over a month the farmer returns explaining that they weren’t able to schedule an appointment with a processor due to the high demand and processing backlogs from producers all over the state. That’s over a month without steady income from a market they depend on. Over a month of feeding animals that should have been processed.

That is already the case for farmers, like Chase Brown of Double B Meats in Warrensburg and farmers across the state who are experiencing unusually long waits at their local processor. Many are waiting to schedule their appointments weeks, months, and even into the next year. Chase’s local market, Richland Community College in Decatur,  was cancelled and he decided not to  sell at the Monticello farmers market because he knew he couldn’t keep up with demand. After he sold out in April  he has not been able to make an appointment at his processor until this July. 

Chad Wallace, farmer and owner of Oak Tree Farms in Ashland where he raises hogs and lamb, is taking a different approach. Chad depends on the Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield for the majority of his sales. Typically, Chad is able to schedule an appointment every two weeks, but now he’s only able to squeeze in one appointment in September– after that, he won’t be able to get another appointment until 2021. Because of this, he has made the decision to space out his product. He cuts off sales when he hits a certain amount each market so that he has enough to get him through future markets until his appointment in September.

Communities want to buy local food and it has been said that “the pandemic could strengthen the US food system.” Now more than ever is the perfect time for farmers like Chad and Chase to feed their communities, but because Illinois and numerous other states lack the infrastructure for processing, small and medium sized farms are unable to scale up. 

“If there was ever a time to make a change, it’s now” says Chad. “We need to fix something when it’s broken; this is pretty broken.”

Next Steps:

Join us on Zoom on Sunday August 2nd at 7:00pm to talk to producers in Illinois. 

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