Take Action on the Strengthening Local Processors Act
Like many local farmers, Brenda and Matt Davies of Naturally Special Farms LLC in Buckingham felt the impact of the meat processing bottleneck this year.
Brenda and Matt are first generation farmers raising their animals on pasture and using regenerative practices. They sell their meat at area farmers markets and rely on small-scale processors to process and package their meat.
Across the country, meat processors have faced a sharp increase in demand that has left many small farms without the ability to process their animals.
Early on the spread of COVID19 in the country’s largest processing facilities forced those facilities to temporarily shutter their operations. Larger livestock producers who sold to those large processing facilities now flooded smaller, local processors with their animals. When 95 Illinois county fairs were canceled this year due to the COVID19 pandemic, local and fair show groups and their show animals flocked to local processors as well.
The rush of show animals and larger livestock animals took up space that long-time customers, like Brenda and Matt, rely on through their busy season.
When it was time to get hogs processed, their local processor told them, “We can’t get you in.”
With already limited reservation space being taken up by large-scale producers, farms like Naturally Special Farms now must schedule six months to a year in advance.
“The cards are stacked against us,” Brenda told us.
Small farms raising their animals on pasture and using regenerative practices have been hit hard. These small farms already work on razor thin margins.
Luckily, Brenda and Matt were able to reserve processing dates at a nearby processor for two hogs per month until December. It was a lifeline – but not nearly enough. In a normal year, they would take 10 hogs per month for processing – not just two – along with two head of cattle. Farmers cannot sustain their businesses on two hogs alone.
Without processing dates for their animals, the pastures are overgrazed, more money is spent on feed, and they are losing customers and income. Less income means little to no money to even think of plans for the next year like purchasing more animals, a crucial component to keeping the farm going.
When farmers can’t access processing, the public doesn’t get great locally-raised meat, and worse, they have to give up their farm dreams.
The meat industry already suffers from consolidation and monopolies.
When farms like Naturally Special Farms across Illinois begin folding their cards, more power is concentrated in the hands of just a few corporations– leaving you with fewer options and less transparency in how your meat is raised and where it comes from.
You can help farmers like Brenda and Matt expand their processing options and stay in business by taking action and urging the Senate to act!
U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced legislation to support local processing businesses and livestock producers.
The Strengthening Local Processing Act would allow small meat processors to expand their capacity to process animals and serve more livestock producers like Brenda.
We applaud the bipartisan effort launched in the House.
Now, it’s the Senate’s turn.