OKLAHOMA CITY - Through the state's CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry received $10 million in grants for the Food Supply Stability Plan for Oklahoma meat processors.
"Agriculture processing never stopped during this pandemic," said Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur. "This grant money is an exceptional opportunity for our Oklahoma meat processing industry to add processing capacity. Changes within existing facilities, as well as adding more plants and expanding existing plants, would greatly help mitigate the effects we have seen on the food supply chain during this pandemic."
This grant funding of $10 million would allow Oklahoma meat processors to build or expand their businesses and create additional meat processing capacity in Oklahoma, mitigating risks of plant shutdowns, and ensuring continued meat availability.
"In order to reduce Oklahoma's dependence on the current limited processors and lessen the risk of consequences of a facility shutting down, it is pertinent for our state to bolster development of this industry through capital for new construction, expansion, and equipment to protect against spread of illness in current plants," said Arthur.
The COVID-19 pandemic has directly and adversely impacted Oklahoma's food supply chain. From livestock harvesting and processing, to distribution, and retail availability for consumers, every aspect from farm to plate has been affected. For the first time, the current generation of Oklahomans has faced empty grocery store shelves while producers, processors, and transporters of agricultural and food products have dealt with oversupply of raw materials and been unable to get their products to market.
New and existing meat processing businesses will be eligible to apply for these grants to help construct new facilities or expand existing facilities to add to the state's overall processing capacity. This could include registered custom-exempt, state inspected, federally inspected establishments. Publicly traded companies are not eligible to apply.
These grants can be used to construct new plant space, invest in equipment, implement biosecurity upgrades, or develop a supporting service such as rendering. Grant funds cannot be used for payroll expenses or to purchase real property.
Grant applications will be reviewed by the existing Agricultural Enhancement and Diversification Board using an evaluation form tailored to meat processing development. Points will be awarded based on extent of processing capacity the project will add, credibility and merit of the applicant based on business experience, timeliness of implementation, likelihood of success based on the business plan, and level of need in the given location of the facility.
The requested amounts of each grant application is expected to vary significantly, but awards will be capped at $1 million. Applicants will be required to submit supporting documentation with applications justifying their expected expenses for a given project.
The Advisory Board may recommend award of the full amount or a lesser amount than what is applied for.
Once grants are awarded, funds will be disbursed, and recipients will be required to submit regular reports and receipts showing progress and how funds are utilized.
Improvements to facilities occurring after March 1st are eligible for reimbursement.
Award money can be expended by recipients by Dec. 30. Grant applications are due Aug. 14 at 5 p.m.