Explaining the Food Supply Chain Loan Program
The Food Supply Chain Loan Program, offered by USDA Rural Development, was launched in December 2021 as a part of USDA's Build Back Better Program.The federal government and many state governments have offered many grants and loans for diversifying the U.S. food supply chain. The meat processing industry has seen its share of national and statewide opportunities, and many small and mid-sized processors have utilized them. The Food Supply Chain Loan Program, offered by USDA Rural Development, was launched in December 2021 as a part of USDA's Build Back Better Program.
“The USDA has really worked hard in the last year to try to build resiliency into our food supply chain through securing it, through expanding it, trying to decentralize it away from those largest processors and packagers down to your intermediate middle market and even to your smaller, neighborhood butcher shops,” explains Neil Hollifield, Managing Director of Government Guaranteed Lending for Ameris Bank. Ameris is one of the first banks in the country to provide funding through this program and recently provided a $24 million guaranteed loan to a Georgia-based beef processor.
The Program allows for loan amounts of up to $40 million for the expansion, the acquisition, and the construction of the food supply chain. This Program, unlike others from USDA Rural Development, does not have requirements based on the physical location of the business, so it is not solely meant for rural businesses. It also is not meant for livestock producers or grocery retailers. Hollifield says that it is intended to address the inequality in the meat supply chain, because the large players that dominate the sector can create stress in the supply chain when they undergo production struggles or slowdowns.
“This program is for for-profit businesses, nonprofit businesses, cooperatives, federally recognized tribes, public bodies, as well as food supply chain entrepreneurs, which is a new phrasing I've seen with USDA,” Hollifield says. “Maybe you don't have your corporation formed. You're one person, and you're trying to expand the food supply chain. This loan can work for you as well.”
As with any loan or grant, there are numerous steps that a processor must take during the process. In the case of the Food Supply Chain Loan Program, each recipient must get a feasibility study, which would quantify the impact on the supply chain that its expansion would do. Would your new machine improve your output by 20 percent? Would your expansion double your production? Hollifield recommends that interested processors get in touch with their bank sooner rather than later in the loan process. Ameris, for example, has professionals who used to work in the USDA, so they have a good understanding of how to navigate the paperwork and requirements. The bank also would be able to set up a company's loan application for retailers who also process their own meat products. As previously noted, retailers are not eligible for the loan, and small meat market/processors may be rejected unless their business is structured properly.
“You need a team to work through this properly, and we are a critical part of that team,” he adds.
For more information, contact Neil Hollifield at firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 639-6534.