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House panel approves bill to expand meat processing capacity

Congress would create a loan and guarantee program to expand competition in the meat processing industry under a bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. The bill would authorize up to $20 million a year through 2024 for the loan guarantees.

Sponsors such as Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, said the bill would be a permanent version of a $500 million USDA initiative announced last summer.

The USDA offers loans, grants and expert advice to new entrants into meat and poultry processing as a way to expand capacity and create new markets for U.S. farmers. Four meatpackers dominate cattle, hog and poultry processing.

The House committee approved HR 4140 on a voice vote. It would authorize USDA loan guarantees for projects in rural areas that would expand and diversify the meat processing sector, improve employment or expand markets.

In most cases, the USDA would not be allowed to make or guarantee a loan of more than $50 million. The limit would be $100 million for cooperatives.

Text of HR 4140 is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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