Local meat processing facility would help farmers and consumers, Warren County Commissioners say
WARREN COUNTY, NJ – Locating a meat processing facility somewhere in Warren County would greatly benefit farmers as well as other residents, the Board of County Commissioners said while backing a resolution supporting such a facility Wednesday night.
While not endorsing any specific site, the county commissioners supported the concept of developing a processing plant in the county, noting it will help farmers stay in business, keep the county green, and help prevent disruptions in the food supply chain that occurred last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Warren County ranked number one in livestock and animal production in New Jersey according to the USDA’s 2017 Agriculture Census, the lack of nearby processing facilities means that farmers are spending hours driving to out-of-state locations to ready their livestock for sale.
“Warren County is no exception when it comes to meat processing plant scarcity,” Commissioner Director James R. Kern III said. “Our local farmers are forced to travel a significant distance for these services, which many times is cost prohibitive for smaller operations. If we want to keep agriculture as a major industry in Warren County, we must support these improvements in the supply chain.”
Everyone loves the rural landscape in Warren County, but to keep it, we need to ensure that agriculture is profitable so that farmers continue to farm, County Commissioner Lori Ciesla said.
“We need to support the whole process of farming,” Ciesla said. “It will help keep us the center of agriculture here in New Jersey.”
“The Warren County Economic Development Committee took a similar stance earlier this year. “This isn’t about any specific site, but it is about the need for this type of facility in our region, considering what our ag community has to go through” to process animals,” County Commissioner Jason J. Sarnoski said.
As of January 1, 2016, Pennsylvania had the largest number of federally inspected slaughter plants with 83, while New Jersey has 16 federally inspected and at least one that is not federally inspected. New Jersey’s livestock farmers transport their products across state lines to eligible processing facilities in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Maryland. Reports of 200- to 300-mile, seven-hour round-trip transportation times to the out-of-state location of slaughter are now commonplace among New Jersey livestock producers, as evidenced by the discussion at the recent Livestock Summits hosted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) and Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
The commissioners said that this reality has presented significant logistical challenges, but the situation is becoming even more unsustainable. Livestock farmers across the state have reported capacity challenges at existing out-of-state facilities that have resulted in unmanageable scheduling limitations and, in the most severe instances, rejection of additional animals. Producers have shared their experiences dealing with advance scheduling of a year or more.
Having access to a USDA-certified slaughter and processing plant in Warren County would not only benefit the livestock producers in this county, but those in neighboring counties as well, the commissioners said.