Farmer Focus, the chicken company, has been awarded a $3.6 million grant as part of the second round of the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP).
The grant will support a $17.8 million expansion of Farmer Focus’ existing organic chicken processing facility (Liberty) in Harrisonburg, VA. By almost doubling processing capacity over the next two years, this investment will enable Farmer Focus to welcome more family farmers into its farming family and create more than 300 new jobs for residents of the city of Harrisonburg and broader Rockingham County.
The USDA’s second round of MPPEP investment of $59 million, which the Farmer Focus grant is part of, was announced by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during a visit to Farmer Focus’ Harrisonburg, VA headquarters.
During the visit, Secretary Vilsack was joined by USDA Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine; Brian Shull, Director of Economic Development for the City of Harrisonburg; Corwin Heatwole, CEO of Farmer Focus; and Stephen Shepard, President and COO of Farmer Focus.
After a tour of the company’s newest 78,000 square-foot state-of-the-art packaging facility (Acorn), the group was joined by Farmer Focus Farming Partners Jules Maloney-Smith of River’s Edge Farm and Peyton Fravel of Peyton Fravel Farm to discuss the impact of the MPPEP grant and ways to create a more sustainable, equitable and resilient meat supply chain.
“The programs and money the Biden-Harris administration is committing can make a huge difference in providing opportunities to independent processors like Farmer Focus so we can build a more competitive meat industry and strong generational family farms while providing our consumers with the highest quality organic and humane certified chicken,” said Corwin Heatwole, founding farmer and Chief Executive Officer of Farmer Focus.
“Just a little over a year ago, I was invited to a White House Round Table where I had the unique opportunity to share my thoughts directly with President Biden and Secretary Vilsack on ways to increase competition within the meat industry. The MPPEP proves that our leaders in Washington are listening closely to the farming community, and are following through on their commitment to improve the lives and livelihood of America’s farmers and the resiliency of our food system.”
The USDA MPPEP is part of a series of financial assistance tools created to support the Biden-Harris Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain, which dedicates resources to expand independent processing capacity.
As President Biden highlighted earlier this year, creating fairer markets and more opportunities for family farmers helps lower prices at the grocery store. The MPPEP grants are designed to give independent farmers a fair chance to compete in the marketplace. The MPPEP’s aim is to increase meat and poultry processing capacity, expand market opportunities for farmers, and create jobs in rural areas, which in turn encourages competition and supports producer income. The result is a resilient food supply chain that lowers costs for working families creating jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas.
“Thank you to Farmer Focus for hosting yesterday’s event with officials at Shenandoah Valley Organic and for your partnership in advancing a sustainable future for American agriculture and creating economic opportunity in the region,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.
“The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are taking action to advance a sustainable vision of agriculture that prioritizes the needs of our resilient producers and small businesses, strengthens our food supply chain and brings value back to rural people and places.
“Through investments like this one, USDA will continue to work tirelessly to give farmers and ranchers a fair chance to compete in the marketplace, which in turn helps lower food costs for the American people.”