Wisconsin Farmers Union’s “Winter Meat-ing” series on the challenges and opportunities around meat processing continues from 12-1pm on Thursday, February 11. The free and virtual event is open to the public and will focus on State and Federal Policy Solutions. Guest panelists will include Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Randy Romanski, Montana Farmers Union President Walt Schweitzer, and National Farmers Union Vice President of Advocacy Mike Stranz.
“Rising interest in local food, growth in direct marketed meats, a lack of labor force and training for butchers, and increasing vertical integration in meat processing are a few of the factors that have challenged meat processing capacity,” notes WFU Membership & Education Organizer Kirsten Slaughter. “WFU recognizes that this is a multi-faceted issue, so we’re striving to give farmers, processors, rural leaders, and other stakeholders a chance to come together in search of creative solutions with this series.”
Recent WFU Meat-ings have covered farmer and processor perspectives, mobile and on-farm processing, and cooperative and community solutions. Upcoming topics will include:
· February 11 – State & Federal Policy Solutions
· March 11 – Labor Struggles & Solutions
· March 25 – Educational Opportunities & Workforce Development
· April 8 – Creative Marketing Approaches
On Feb. 5, Governor Tony Evers announced a three-pronged plan to bolster local meat processing infrastructure in Wisconsin. The measures include creating a meat processor grant program to incentivize innovation and expand capacity, as well as a Meat Talent Development Program to target workforce development. The budget also includes adding additional food inspector positions at DATCP to meet the growing demand.
“Meat Processing Infrastructure was one of the 2020 Special Orders of Business set by the grassroots Farmers Union membership, and it’s an issue that has become even more critical in light of the supply chain struggles around the pandemic,” said Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden. “We’re seeing some inspiring movement on potential policy solutions to build up meat processing capacity and address some of the labor challenges in this sector. We invite others to hear about innovative approaches and join us in seeking solutions as this series continues over the next few months.”
“The resiliency of our state’s meat processing industry is critical to the success of our agricultural economy and our state as a whole,” added DATCP Secretary-designee Randy Romanski. “In addition to the significant investments Governor Evers has proposed to support Wisconsin meat processors, the input of all those along the meat supply chain will be important in developing long-term solutions. These gatherings are a way to start those conversations.”