SMADC taking applications for grants to build ag facility
HUGHESVILLE, Md. — Applications for a $1 million grant to build a regional agricultural facility in Southern Maryland are due to the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission by Feb. 21.
The commission released the grant application in late December following a months-long delay as it consulted with the state attorney general’s office over the proper way to release the money to whoever builds the facility, said Craig Sewell, the commission’s marketing and livestock specialist.
The commission had planned over the summer to request bids from governments in Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, but was told it needed to release the money as a grant due to limitations of its charter.
“I think they were trying to help us find the least cumbersome way to try and get this project off the ground,” Sewell said.
The facility would include a USDA-certified meat-processing center, a cold-storage meat locker, a community kitchen and classroom, and warehouse space for food distribution.
Commission officials for years also wanted to include a slaughterhouse in the project, but removed it after a group of Amish farmers began constructing one in St. Mary’s County in 2018.
It’s set to open shortly, according to Sewell.
Other features include a retail store and a farmer’s market.
The project has been proposed primarily as a solution to local livestock farmers who often travel long distances to rural Virginia or northern Maryland to have cattle, pigs and other animals slaughtered and processed.
“There’s really no supply chain to be able to take this produce to the next level,” Sewell said. “What we need is a place where people can come and sell fresh meat.”
All applicants need have property for the facility, sited in one of the region’s five counties, included in their grant applications.
The commission briefed county government officials across the region in August with the initial hope of receiving and processing their bids by the end of September.
When questions over the legality of bidding out the project interrupted that, Sewell said, the process was delayed, new elections were held, and new office holders may need to be briefed.
The commission plans to award the grant as soon as possible after receiving all applications, Sewell said.
“We thought this was going to be wrapped up months ago. Now, I think we’re in a place where we can start setting a timeline.”
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