Iowa eggplant plant gets its first crack in new USDA loan thanks to Axne and Vilsack

Photo by start line staff

Small rural food processors have just received another big boost from the Biden administration with the announcement on Friday of a new loan program to increase production capacity.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an $11.1 million loan for Crystal Freeze Dry LLC, a family business that produces OvaEasy powdered egg products at its Panora plant.

Crystal Freeze Dry LLC is the first recipient of the Food Supply Chain Secured Loan Program. And the money for the program comes from the US bailout. To announce the loan, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Representative Cindy Axne, who represents Panora in Congress, visited the facility.

“There’s a broad supply chain in the middle that needs strengthening and this company is a good example of that,” Vilsack said. “They take eggs that are produced here in Iowa…they are cracked. They are in liquid form. They come to this company, and then this company converts it into a freeze-dried product that has a longer shelf life, better nutrition, and less food loss.

Crystal Freeze CEO Hernan Etcheto said they were happy to be the first recipients of the grant because they love promoting supply chain security.

“Fully functional egg powder is useful because you’re taking something perishable. It’s liquid. It can go bad if you don’t refrigerate it and make it sturdy. Stable shelf,” he said. “This allows you to ship product from Iowa anywhere in the world without loss. We say our mission is to help feed the world by reducing food waste, and the USDA helps us do just that.

The loan will help the company expand manufacturing, which Vilsack says will help boost supply. This is the main objective of the loan program as a whole.

We learned during the pandemic that, however efficient our food system in the country was, it was not as resilient as it should have been,” Vilsack noted.

With the program, the USDA will partner with lenders such as local banks to guarantee loans to eligible entities to increase meat and poultry processing capacity and fund other chain infrastructure. of food supply.

The USDA received over 330 loan applications, which were steadily reduced to 14 as USDA staff reviewed these applications. Vilsack said this is just the first wave to be released, and the department will announce more later this year, and accept more applications.

These loans are part of a larger effort across the Biden administration to support and empower small and medium-sized processors and strengthen regional food processing to increase supply and competition so people aren’t as dependent. large companies. Having more regional processing will also lower meat and egg prices, as shipping costs are lower.

Axne said this loan program is just another part of the administration-wide effort to close the holes that have emerged during the pandemic by plugging food supply gaps.

“We are working, folks, to rebuild our food supply system and the chains involved in it to make sure we can get good produce to every American,” she said. “We haven’t stopped since we started passing laws to make sure we deal with supply chain disruptions.”

She cited the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which reforms the US export system, and subsidies given to small meat processors to compete with Tyson and JBS, as examples.

“And now the secretary and the administration are helping us in Congress to move our agenda forward to make sure there’s regional treatment for many other products as well, to deliver on that promise that we’ve made here in Iowa. for many years,” says Axne.

Both Axne and Vilsack said the US bailout, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Cut Inflation Act will all work together, now and in the future, to rebuild and fund America’s infrastructure. and reduce the prices of health care, energy and utilities.

“The point is, the US bailout has given us a tremendous opportunity to strengthen the supply chain,” Vilsack said. “And when you combine that with the Infrastructure Act, it’s going to expand the possibilities for broadband access.”

Broadband will allow small businesses and manufacturers to market more widely, and equipment is increasingly dependent on the internet, so broadband access is crucial for small to medium-sized operations, Vilsack said. .

The Reducing Inflation Act will allow rural electricity cooperatives and other utility companies to convert to less expensive renewable energy generation, which will reduce overall energy costs for owners and manufacturers, while increasing their durability.

“It’s an exciting time at USDA,” Vilsack said. “A lot of activity, a lot of work going on, a lot of people working hard in rural development and working on programs like this. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here to present the first of many, many, many loan guarantees we offer.

Nikoel Hytrek

Got a story idea or something I should know? Email me at [email protected] You can also contact me by DM on Twitter at @n_hytrek.

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