Iowa Egg Plant Gets First Crack At New USDA Loan Thanks To Axne, Vilsack

Photo by Starting Line staff

Small, rural food processors just got another big boost of support from the Biden Administration with the Friday announcement of a new loan program to increase production capacity.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an $11.1 million loan for Crystal Freeze Dry LLC, a family-owned company that produces OvaEasy, powdered egg products, in its Panora factory. 

Crystal Freeze Dry LLC is the first recipient of the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program. And the money for the program comes from the American Rescue Plan. To announce the loan, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Rep. Cindy Axne, who represents Panora in Congress, paid a visit to the facility. 

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

Crystal Freeze CEO Hernan Etcheto said they were happy to be the grant’s first recipients because they like to promote supply chain security.

“A fully functional egg powder is useful because you take something that’s perishable. It’s liquid. It can go bad if you don’t refrigerate it and you make it robust. Shelf stable,” he said. “It allows you to ship the product of Iowa all around the world without loss. We say our mission is to help feed the world by reducing food waste, and the USDA is helping us do just that.”

The loan will help the company expand manufacturing, which Vilsack noted will help boost supply. That’s the main aim of the loan program overall.

We learned during the pandemic that as efficient as our food system was in the country, it was not as resilient as it needed to be,” Vilsack noted.  

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

The USDA received over 330 applications for the loan, which have been steadily whittled down to 14 as USDA staff reviewed those applications. Vilsack said this is only the first wave to be released, and the department will announce more later this year, as well as accept more applications.

These loans are part of a broader effort across the Biden Administration to support and empower small and mid-sized processors and strengthen regional food processing to increase supply and competition so people aren’t as dependent on big companies. Having more regional processing will also lower the prices of meat and eggs because the shipping cost is lower.

Axne said this loan program is just another part of the administration-wide effort to address the holes that appeared during the pandemic by shoring up gaps in food supply. 

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

She cited the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which reforms the system for America’s exports, and grants for small meat processors to compete with the likes of Tyson and JBS, as examples.

“And now the Secretary and the administration is helping us in Congress move our agenda forward to make sure that there’s regional processing for a lot of other products as well, to fulfill that promise that we’ve said here in Iowa for many years,” Axne said.

Axne and Vilsack both said the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act, will all work together, now and in the future, to rebuild and fund American infrastructure and reduce health care, energy, and utility prices.

“The point of this is that the American Rescue Plan has given us a tremendous opportunity to strengthen the supply chain,” Vilsack said. “And when you combine that with the infrastructure law, that’s going to expand opportunities for broadband access.”

Broadband will allow small companies and manufacturers to market more broadly, and equipment is more and more reliant on internet now, so high-speed access is crucial for small-to-mid-size operations, Vilsack said.

The Inflation Reduction Act will allow rural electric cooperatives and other utility companies to convert to less expensive renewable power production, which will lower overall costs for energy for homeowners and for manufacturers, while also increasing their sustainability.

“It’s an exciting time at USDA,” Vilsack said. “A lot of activity, a lot of work going on, a lot of hard-working folks at rural development working on programs like this. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here to showcase the first of what will be many, many, many loan guarantees that we’re providing.”

 

Nikoel Hytrek
10/22/22

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at nikoel@iowastartingline.com. You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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1 Comment on "Iowa Egg Plant Gets First Crack At New USDA Loan Thanks To Axne, Vilsack"

  • I can’t stop my tax money from being used to help the CAFO egg industry, but at least I don’t have to buy CAFO eggs.

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