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Meat center a step closer with grant

Halifax County has been awarded a $12,500 planning grant to fund a professional, third-party feasibility study of a USDA inspected meat processing facility to serve Southside Virginia.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Wednesday the county project is one of 11 covering more than 30 localities to be awarded 2013 planning grants from the Governor’s Agriculture & Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID).

The small-scale USDA-inspected animal processing center would allow local and regional beef, goat, lamb and swine producers to  have meats processed and brought to market in the county.

According to Halifax County Agricultural Development Director Leah Brown, the feasibility study will answer many questions on whether or not Halifax County can sustain the number of animal units necessary to open the meat processing facility.

“It’s a positive step into the possibility of getting a facility,” said Brown.

The total amount for the feasibility study is $25,000, and the county is expected to match the $12,500 grant funding.

After learning of the grant award Wednesday, Brown said the next step is to decide if the county even wants a meat processing facility and then to go forward with the planning process.

Decisions will have to be made concerning whether to build a new facility or renovate and use an existing building.

Should the processing center come to fruition, six to 12 jobs could be created, Brown said.

 “No decisions will be made until June,” Brown said regarding who will complete the feasibility study.

Although Brown said county officials already have reviewed several options, no decisions are expected until next month.

The feasibility study could take up to several months to complete, added Brown, depending on how in depth it goes.

“If it was all up to me, it will be as thorough as possible, but it’s up to the board of supervisors,” said Brown.

Guidelines for the grant were announced the end of November, and the county applied by the March 1 deadline.

When announcing Halifax County received the ag and forestry development fund planning grant Wednesday, Governor Bob McDonnell said, “We’ve had great success incorporating two of the commonwealth’s largest industries, agriculture and forestry, and their significant overall impact on our economy into our economic development agenda. 

“That strategic decision has been justified many times over. Exports have reached new record highs during the last three years, and we’ve successfully utilized AFID economic development grants to attract new agribusinesses to Virginia and to help existing operations expand. Creating a problem that incentivizes communities to plan for how they can best grow and support agricultural and forestry industries in their business community is a natural continuation of a strategy that is proven to benefit Virginians and create jobs,” added McDonnell.

Other districts receiving grants included Fauquier County, Giles County, Highland County, James City County, Northern Neck Planning District, Prince Edward County, City of Staunton, Virginia’s Region 2000 Local Government Council, Town of Abingdon and Central Shenandoah.

“The facility could bring a lot of money…We’re really excited to move forward,” Brown concluded.