By Maddie Berwanger
If you spend time in any rural community, you will see that many meat processors are struggling to keep their doors open because of job retention and recruitment. Some rural-area processors have closed their doors entirely, leaving local farmers and ranchers searching for new meat processing plants.
The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority is well-known for being the financial assistance provider under the Missouri Department of Agriculture. MASBDA has several programs that help farmers and ranchers, including a program specifically for meat processors.
MASBDA’s Meat Processing Facility Investment Tax Credit Program assists Missouri meat processors that construct, improve or acquire buildings, facilities or equipment used exclusively for meat processing. The focus of the program is to increase production and efficiency, and to create jobs when possible.
This program helps create additional jobs in the meat processing workforce and retain them.
Growth means jobs
Western’s Smokehouse Production LLC, located in Greentop, Mo., participated in the program for two consecutive years. Kevin and Heather Western think their success is clear.
“As a small business, we have looked into numerous types of assistance and have never found one that really truly helped us until this,” Kevin says.
VARIETY PACK: Missouri-based Western’s Smokehouse produces eight flavors of meat sticks, including original, barbecue, jalapeno, teriyaki and hickory smoked bacon, to name just a few.
The Westerns tried almost every avenue in meat processing: a restaurant, custom processing, retail, catering and private labeling. However, they found their niche with snack sticks. They increased production from 6,000 pounds a day to 42,000 pounds a day, which required more help.
When the expansions started in 2017, they employed about 33 people. After the expansions, there has been a creation of about 77 additional jobs.
“We never quite qualified for anything, and yet we were employing 100-plus people in a town of 400 people in one of the smallest and poorest counties in the state,” Kevin says. “This program has been a blessing, and it is not hard to fill out. The barriers we face to achieve the credit are not so great that we feel like we cannot do it as a small business.”
All meat processing facilities that performed modernizations or expansion at their facility since Jan. 1, 2018, are eligible to apply for MASBDA’s Meat Processing Facility Investment Tax Credit Program.
The tax credit amount can be up to 25% of the total modernization or expansion costs, with a maximum of $75,000 per year. The tax credit can be carried forward for four years and may be transferred, sold or assigned. Modernizations or expansions may be considered through Dec. 31, 2021.
For information on the Meat Processing Facility Investment Tax Credit Program or MASBDA, visit agriculture.mo.gov or call 573-751-2129.
Berwanger is a loan officer for the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority. She writes from Jefferson City, Mo.