A Recap of Meat Processing Listening Sessions

The need for additional meat processing capacity is not a new issue in Virginia. However, this need has intensified over the past several years, both within and outside of the agriculture industry, due to supply chain issues triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a multitude of challenges inhibiting expansion, but no single solution. To address this, Virginia Farm Bureau (VAFB) worked with the Virginia Agribusiness Council and the Virginia Cattleman’s Association to pass legislation during the 2022 General Assembly to direct the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to establish a five-year strategic plan for increasing meat processing capacity within the commonwealth.

To give producers and processors an opportunity to weigh in on this work, VAFB recently hosted four listening sessions across Virginia. Great attendance and productive discussion were had at sessions in Buckingham, Culpeper, Harrisonburg and Wytheville. In addition to VDACS and VAFB staff, the groups were fortunate to be joined by Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr, VDACS Commissioner Joe Guthrie, Delegate Michael Webert, Delegate Tony Wilt, Senator Travis Hackworth, Delegate Marie March and Senator Todd Pillion’s Legislative Director, Tyler Lester.

As you may expect, each region presented a slightly different perspective on the challenges and opportunities associated with meat processing, but there were also many common themes. Good things are currently happening in the industry–the people and product are held in very high regard, and demand for a local product is through the roof. Direct sales and value-added products can provide a livestock producer with much needed additional income, but the extreme wait time to secure a slot at a processing facility is a major roadblock. For those looking to start a facility, obstacles such as gaps in technical assistance, struggles navigating the regulatory process, and difficulties securing buy-in from local governments and the general public were mentioned. Those currently operating facilities elaborated on hurdles resulting from the rendering process, lack of available labor and the need for additional costly infrastructure and cold storage space.

If you were unable to attend a listening session in person, but would like to share your thoughts, please take a few minutes to complete a survey by clicking here. The strategic plan is due to the General Assembly by January 1, 2023.

VDACS Food Safety Program Permit

During the 2022 General Assembly session, a new law was passed providing the authority for the issuance of permits by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Services (VDACS) to any Virginia food manufacturer, food storage warehouse, or retail food establishment (i.e., supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores). It also requires that all food establishments regulated by VDACS be issued and have a valid permit from the agency’s Commissioner to operate in the Commonwealth.

Please note that food establishments permitted by VDACS will continue to receive regular, ongoing inspections by VDACS’s Food Safety Program to ensure that the inspected establishments are maintained in a clean, healthy, and sanitary condition. The only change in the regulatory process will be the issuance of the annual permit.

All food establishments under VDACS’s jurisdiction will be receiving a food establishment permit on or about July 1, 2022. Permits will be mailed directly to each of the food establishments.
A permit will not be issued until January 1, 2023, to any food manufacturer, food storage warehouse, or retail food establishment located in a locality that adopted a local food inspection or permitting ordinance prior to January 1, 2022. This applies to the following 10 localities: City of Alexandria, Arlington County, City of Danville, Fairfax County, City of Hampton, City of Hopewell, City of Norfolk, City of Petersburg, City of Portsmouth, and City of Roanoke.

The permit will remain valid for a period of 12 months after the date of issuance. When that time has elapsed, VDACS will provide a replacement permit. While food establishments will continue to pay the existing annual food safety fee, there will be no additional cost associated with this permit.

FAQs

1) Do I need to apply for a permit if I am an existing food establishment that is currently in operation?

No, other than those establishments located in one of the localities listed in number 2 below, your permit will be mailed to you the first week of July. If you have not received your permit by July 25, 2022, please email foodsafety@vdacs.virginia.gov.

2) If my food establishment is in the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, City of Danville, Fairfax County, City of Hampton, City of Hopewell, City of Norfolk, City of Petersburg, City of Portsmouth, or City of Roanoke, when will I receive my permit?

Your permit will be mailed to you the first week of January, 2023. If you have not received your permit by January 25, 2023, please email foodsafety@vdacs.virginia.gov.

3) I have a VDACS Certificate of Inspection. Does the permit replace that Certificate?

Yes. Your permit will replace your Certificate of Inspection.

4) I am getting ready to open a new firm, how do I apply for a permit?

Please submit the applicable application for your business type. To locate the application form, select the link for your business type on this website.

5) Once I submit my application, how soon will I receive my permit?

When your application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the VDACS Food Safety Program. After your application is reviewed, you will receive a call from your Food Safety Specialist to schedule your pre-opening inspection. The pre-opening inspection must be completed prior to manufacturing or selling food products. You will receive your permit after the successful completion of the pre-opening inspection. We make every effort to perform pre-opening inspections as soon as possible.

6) If I am a new owner of a food establishment, can the permit from the previous owner transfer to me?

No. If you are a new owner, you need to submit a new application and apply for a new permit. To locate the application form, on this website select the link for your business type.

7) If I move my existing business to a new physical location within Virginia, can the permit transfer?

No. If you move your business to a new location, you need to submit a new application and apply for a new permit. To locate the application form, on this website select the link for your business type.

8) I am the manager/operator of a farmers’ market. Do I need to obtain a permit for the market?

No. Individual farmers’ market vendors who are under inspection with the VDACS Food Safety Program will be issued a permit. A permit will not be issued for the overall market.

9) Is there a fee associated with the permit?

No, there is no fee associated with the permit. There is an annual $40.00 annual inspection fee for establishments inspected by the VDACS Food Safety Program that will not change. You will receive an invoice during our next billing cycle which is usually in the fall of each year.

10) Does my permit expire?

Yes. Your permit will expire on July 1, 2023. At that time, VDACS will provide a replacement permit.

11) Will I need to renew my permit?

No. Your permit will be renewed automatically as long as your food establishment remains in substantial compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. You will receive a new permit each July. The renewal of a permit does not coincide with the frequency of your routine inspections from the VDACS Food Safety Program.

12) If I have additional questions, who should I contact?

Please email foodsafety@vdacs.virginia.gov or call 806-786-3520

An Introduction to Virginia Farm Link’s New Website

The Virginia Farm Link Program recently relaunched their website with a new and improved system for helping farm owners and farm seekers connect to explore leasing and sale options. Jen Perkins, Coordinator at the Office of Farmland Preservation, will be providing an overview of the program and a walk through of the new site.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022
2-3pm Eastern

Zoom Registration Link
https://tinyurl.com/vafarmlink

If you have any questions, please contact Katie Trozzo at ketrozzo@vt.edu.