Ducheneaux Praises MPPC Part of Solution to Increasing Meat Processing Capacity, Strengthening Rural Communities
HAVRE – Top leaders from the FSA and Rural Development recently toured Montana Premium Processing Cooperative, calling the facility part of the solution to a stronger food supply chain.
The new facility, located in Havre, is set to open Nov. 21 and recently received nearly $292,000 in Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program funding.
FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux praised the facility, saying he’s pleased to see the community coming together with a shared vision to create the co-op.
“I think this is definitely part of the solution,” Ducheneaux said about the role the co-op will play in increasing processing capacity and competition to benefit producers and consumers alike.
“I was honored to be able to show off our meat processing facility to Zach Ducheneaux, Kathleen Williams and Maureen Wicks. Their involvement by supporting us with this critically needed meat processing plant is the difference between us being absolutely successful and struggling,” Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer said.
“The emphasis under the Biden administration to increase the processing capacity in our local communities really falls on the shoulders of Rural Development. We appreciate Kathleen Williams and her team working with local producers to increase our processing capacity,” Schweitzer said.
“It’s just a win-win all around,” Williams said about the project’s potential to create jobs and strengthen the food supply chain.
“It’s just so nice to be part of the first steps of what we hope will be fixing these things,” Williams said, praising her Rural Development team for their work to support the project.
“We can clearly see what doing nothing will do for us, with a smaller and smaller percentage of the food dollar getting back to the producer,” Ducheneaux said, adding that the Biden administration is putting funding toward solutions, such as MPPC.
MPPC is a producer-focused cooperative that has been formed in partnership with Montana Farmers Union and Farmers Union Industries. The USDA-inspected facility will open new markets to producers and process beef, sheep, pork and bison.
Already, the cooperative has more than 50 members and is expected to continue to grow, with the ultimate goal of being a template for creating similar cooperatives around the state.
The co-op bridges the gap between producers and consumers, as well as gives producers’ more control of their product instead of working with large packing companies.
“This is a great opportunity to provide choice for producers as well,” Ducheneaux said.
“This project is exactly what we need more of,” he added.
The delegation also took in a tour of Montana State University-Northern, where the formation of a meat sciences curriculum was discussed. MPPC would partner with Northern to give students hands-on training.
“It’d fit in perfect,” MSU-N Chancellor Greg Kegel said, adding that students and funding for the program are the missing pieces to getting the program started.
“You can see why we want to partner with Northern,” Schweitzer said during Tuesday’s tour. “ ‘Cause if they did, you can see it’d be in good hands.”
MFU will continue to work with Northern to make the program a reality, Schweitzer said.
“I look forward to partnering with MSU-Northern and their expertise to develop a meat science curriculum that will train butchers, inspectors and entrepreneurs so that they can open a butcher shop in your community,” Schweitzer said.
Community members and anyone interested is invited to see the facility for themselves during the Grand Opening, Nov. 21. Tours will run from 1 to 3 p.m. at 230 25th Ave. W., followed by a co-op member meeting.
“Even if you’re not a producer, I think you’ll appreciate as a consumer what we have built here in Havre,” Schweitzer said. “And I think you will learn a lot on how we will process livestock to put meat on your table.”
Montana Premium Processing Cooperative is a member-owned cooperative providing USDA certified live-to-package processing for cattle, hog, sheep, and bison to meet the needs of Montana producers and bolster food security by supporting a hoof-to-plate business model for local ranchers. For more information, visit www.mtpremiumprocessing.com.