Farmers Union Foundation receives $2.9 million grant from Economic Development Administration

ST. PAUL – The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the Farmers Union Foundation a $2.9 million grant to purchase mobile meat slaughtering and processing equipment that will be used to facilitate workforce training and meet meat processing needs in central Minnesota.

“We’re honored by this investment and are excited to lead in building a processing system that serves family farmers better and helps train the next generation of meat processors,” said Farmers Union Foundation President Gary Wertish. “Even before COVID-19 hit, Minnesota Farmers Union members were calling for a more robust regional processing network in resolutions passed at county conventions and adopted into state policy. When COVID-19 hit and workers fell ill at slaughter plants, the problems with our consolidated system were in full view.

“We have a lot of partners to thank as part of this project, and that starts with the legislature, which invested $500,000 last session,” Wertish added. “This EDA grant is a result of work with the legislature, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, AURI, Region 5, Central Lakes and Ridgewater colleges, our federal delegation, small business development centers and a host of food and agricultural organizations across the state. This is about rebuilding a system that we haven’t invested in for a generation. It’s a big project and I’m glad to have a good team.”

The processing equipment will be used for direct instruction at Central Lakes College in Staples and the mobile slaughter unit will support instruction at both Ridgewater College in Willmar and Central Lakes College.

The EDA investment will be matched with $740,000 in local funds, including from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), Happy Dancing Turtle and Farmers Union Foundation.

“This EDA investment in central Minnesota gives individuals a pathway to good-paying jobs in the meat processing industry and helps address supply chain issues that will increase U.S. competitiveness in the global market,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.

“We are pleased to make this investment in the Farmers Union Foundation to help provide workforce training and fill high-demand jobs in the meat processing sector in five counties in central Minnesota,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo.

“A healthy meat processing industry is critical to the economic success of central Minnesota,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “By giving students access to valuable resources and training, this grant will help strengthen our state’s meat processing sector.”

“Just a handful of large companies have come to dominate the meat and poultry processing industry, which means higher prices for consumers and shrinking earnings for farmers,” said Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. “This new investment will make Minnesota’s meat processing sector more dynamic and competitive while supporting hundreds of jobs. I am proud of our work to pass the American Rescue Plan, which made this program possible.”

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to U.S. communities.

About Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Farmers Union Foundation

The Farmers Union Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, exists to help farmers do together those things that they cannot accomplish alone. Since it was founded in 1958, the Foundation has helped advance the interests of Minnesota Farmers Union members through education, the promotion of cooperatives and communication with the public.

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