Governor’s veto slashes meat processing funding 

Commissioner Ken Cornell voted as the lone dissent on the meat processing center in a recent Alachua County Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Commissioner Ken Cornell voted as the lone dissent on the meat processing center in a recent Alachua County Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Photo by Seth Johnson

A potential meat processing plant in Newberry hit a snag Thursday when Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated $1.75 million in state funding for it as part of a set of vetoes that cut $510 million from Florida’s budget. 

The meat processing plant has been part of ongoing discussions with Newberry and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The city of Newberry bought 93 acres in 2021 to build a new wastewater treatment plant and has been discussing several potential additional facilities to add to the site. 

The BOCC, which has talked with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) about the project, has set aside $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help build the meat processing plant. 

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FL Senate District 9 Keith Perry
Keith Perry

State Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, and Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, had gotten an additional $1.7 million through the Florida Legislature this session, but a line-item veto removed it. The plant is estimated to cost $5 million to become operational. 

“While we are disappointed that the governor has vetoed the appropriations for the meat processing facility in this session, we are still confident in the overall success of the project, and we look forward to submitting an application next year!” Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said via text message Friday. 

Supporters, including BOCC Chair Anna Prizzia, see the meat processing plant as a way to help small farmers process their cattle. Currently, local ranchers must wait six months to a year to access USDA-approved meat processing facilities. 

Marlowe has previously described the planned facility as a “very small regional plant,” intended to serve farmers raising 50 to 100 cows. 

Newberry’s contribution to the plant would be the land at the Newberry Environmental Park, one of several projects with Alachua County.  

“We are donating dirt, and they are donating facilities,” Newberry City Manager Mike New said Monday. 

However, the veto of the state dollars could threaten the county’s support for the project. 

County Commissioner Ken Cornell, who has opposed the county outright owning a meat processing plant, said in a text message Thursday evening: “With the governor’s veto of the meat processing facility appropriation, hopefully my colleagues on the County Commision will recognize this as the off ramp that we’ve been discussing and direct staff to discontinue this project. If so, this will free up $2.5 million of ARPA funds for other more pressing needs throughout our community.” 

The BOCC on June 6 directed staff to move forward with three interlocal agreements with Newberry about building a solid waste collection center, a household hazardous waste center and the meat processing plant on 25 acres of the environmental park. 

The two entities also have discussed putting a joint firefighting training center on the site. 

The BOCC and the Newberry City Commission will meet jointly on July 10, and the BOCC is scheduled to discuss the meat processing plant again on July 11. 

— with reporting from J.C. Derrick 

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