USDA identifies areas where small producers lack infrastructure

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

The U.S. government has issued a series of maps and other data that show a shortage of livestock slaughter facilities in many areas of the inland West.

The data are part of a preliminary study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. The report identifies state and federal slaughter facilities and counties where small cattle, pork and poultry producers are the most concentrated.

Federal officials would not say whether the study could lead to funding to open more facilities, although a news release mentions the availability of loan and grant programs that support local food initiatives.

"This was a first attempt to identify areas in the U.S. where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility," USDA Press Secretary Justin DeJong told the Capital Press in an e-mail.

"This preliminary study was done on a county-by-county level, but further examination will be needed before we draw broad conclusions," he said. "We will continue to study and refine the mapping."

The project is part of the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which promotes the local food movement. The project's intricate maps identify areas with the most small farms raising cattle, hogs and chicken and also pinpoint the locations of slaughter facilities of various sizes.

The government defines small livestock and poultry producers as those who have annual sales of $250,000 or less.

The maps show the West Coast is dotted with federal beef slaughter facilities but that shortages exist in southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho and northern Nevada.

There are more than two dozen counties in the West with 150 or more small cattle farms and no cattle slaughter facilities, according to the study.

Similarly, federal slaughter facilities for hogs are concentrated in the valleys of California, Western Oregon and the Puget Sound area but are few and far between elsewhere in the West.

There are only two small federal chicken slaughterhouses in the Pacific Northwest and nine in California, though the Northwest has more small chicken farms.

Online

Slaughter Availability to Small Livestock and Poultry Producers: www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/KYF_maps-050410_FOR_RELEASE.pdf

More information

* The Small Plant Help Desk is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. To speak to a staff specialist call 877-374-7435 or e-mail InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov .

* For information on loan and grant programs that can be used to support local food initiatives, including initiatives involving new or existing meat and poultry slaughter facilities, contact USDA Rural Development 800-670-6553. For information on programs, go to www.rurdev.usda.gov or visit a USDA Rural Development Office.

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