WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Andy Harris, M.D., Jamie Raskin, David J. Trone, and Glenn Ivey (all Md.) today announced $3.8 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program for the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation’s (MARBIDCO) loan program to help Maryland-based, small- and medium-sized food businesses increase their capacity to process meat and invasive Blue Catfish in the state.
According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, nearly 4,000 farms in Maryland raise livestock, while commercial watermen working in the Chesapeake Bay harvest over 5 million pounds of the invasive and predatory Blue Catfish which are only expected to grow in number. Yet despite these activities, Maryland has only 18 USDA-approved small, continuous inspection facilities, which can result in long processing appointment wait times for the state’s farmers and watermen. With these funds, MARBIDCO will leverage its experience in helping Maryland’s small to mid-sized meat processors expand or establish their operations to cut processing times and bring local meat and Blue Catfish to market faster.
“Maryland boasts strong agriculture and seafood industries that contribute billions of dollars to our state’s economy while helping feed the region and country. But currently, our farmers and watermen are forced to compete against each other for very limited resources when it comes to processing their products, which causes delays that have dire economic consequences. That’s why we worked to secure this federal investment in boosting local meat and fish processing services – which will mean more business for our farmers and watermen, more capacity to get the invasive Blue Catfish out of the Bay, and lower food costs for consumers. This investment is an important step forward for Maryland and the Bay, and we will continue working to address the root causes of these processing delays to support our local agricultural and fishing industries,” said the lawmakers.
Through this revolving loan program, MARBIDCO plans to offer loans ranging from $200,000 to $4,000,000 to purchase livestock processing and cold storage equipment, build or upgrade meat processing facilities, and purchase real estate used for livestock processing. MARBIDCO will also match the equity contribution of an approved applicant on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 10 percent of the project costs, with the maximum grant award amount capped at $250,000,
MARBIDCO is a quasi-public economic development organization chartered by the State of Maryland and headquartered in Annapolis. Its mission is to help Maryland’s small and family-owned farm, forestry, and seafood businesses prosper by providing targeted financial and other services that help retain existing resource-based industry production and commerce, promote rural entrepreneurship, and nurture emerging or expanding agricultural enterprises.