State board proposes $50,000 grants for small-scale butchers

By: - July 16, 2021 3:01 pm

The Iowa Economic Development Authority has proposed grants of up to $50,000 to smaller butchery operations under new legislation. (Creative Commons photo via

The state would offer grants of up to $50,000 to small-scale butchers under rules that won preliminary approval of the Iowa Economic Development Authority board Friday. 

The rules, for which the board approved a “notice of intended action,” would implement House File 857, approved by lawmakers earlier this year. That legislation set up the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. 

The bill also asked for a study of setting up an artisanal butchery program at a community college. A state task force is expected to do that work.

Typically, proposed rules are considered for final approval after the notice, following a public comment period.

Lawmakers wanted to support smaller specialty butcher shops both to promote innovation and to improve competition in the industry. IEDA is expected to offer grants, low-interest loans and forgivable loans from its current funds. 

The $750,000 initial legislative appropriation is intended to help with expansions or remodeling at small-scale meat processing facilities inspected by the state or federal governments, including those in mobile units or in rented spaces. 

IEDA Director Debi Durham said she was unaware operations in rented buildings would qualify, as the proposed rules indicate.

IEDA staffer Kristin Hanks-Bents said that is to help young farmers who might not be able to afford to buy property.

Lawmakers directed that preference be given to projects that create jobs, expand opportunities for small-scale farmers to market meat under a private label, and address financial need, for example.

Under the proposed rules, the state would offer aid of up to $50,000 per applicant. More could be offered with IEDA board approval should lawmakers provide more money later. A committee appointed by IEDA and IDALS would score applications.

The program comes as President Biden moves to lessen the influence of four major meatpacking companies: Tyson, National Beef, JBS and Cargill. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced $655 million in aid to small and medium-sized packing operations to improve competition.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.