Grant expected to help boost local economy and the farming industry

(ABC 6 News) An $8.8 Million grant was given to Upper Iowa Beef, a local company that provides high quality beef. Ed Greiman is the general manager of Upper Iowa Beef. He describes some of the places they sell to. “High end steakhouses. A lot of our product is heading to those kinds of places. A little bit of retail and grocery stores.” The catch of the grant is they need to spend $40 Million; they are just over half of that spending goal. The grant has not been given yet, but they are in the process of getting the money and should easily clear the spending goal.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Lime Springs to talk about the grant and opportunities that farmers in the region can take advantage of. He mentioned several different industries that are opening, including renewable energy and climate smart practices among others.

One such opportunity local farmers are hoping to see — is an increase in resources — in particular — internet access. Brian Krambeer is the President and CEO of MiEnergy Cooperative, an electric utility company based in Rushford, Minn. One concern he has for a lot of rural communities is how many farmers don’t have access to high-speed internet that people in cities have access to. “We live in an area that has a lot of underserved or unserved areas, and it’s a real challenge.”

Though grants like these can increase growth and efficiency on farms and in rural areas — they can also have wide ranging impacts on the entire economy, including in health care settings. Brandon Brevig is the CFO of Regional Health Services of Howard County. With smaller hospitals, he’s noticed that people with offices have to share them which ends up creating inefficiencies in the workplace that are critical for health emergencies. These challenges were amplified with the COVID-19 Pandemic. “Moving equipment all the time to take care of patients. This is going to eliminate that. Everything is going to be all in one building.” Additional space and air vents have been added in recent years to help separate critically ill patients from those that are relatively healthy.

More options for childcare also become possible with a better economy in rural areas. Some improvements have already taken place. Amy Abeling is the Director of Little Sprouts Children’s Center in New Hampton, Iowa. She is someone who has already seen some improvements. “When I took over, we had 54 kids, no director, and were weeks away from closing. Now we just opened our second location.”

These grants not only aim to support existing farms, but people looking to enter the farming industry Although finding both people and equipment are both challenges.

Grants should allow for growth not just in northern Iowa, but also southern Minnesota too. Secretary Vilsack challenged people who attended to think about the farms we’ve lost and how we can get people back. “Are we okay with losing 437,000 farms in a lifetime? I’m not. I hope you aren’t either.”

In addition, another grant was given to a farm in Charles City.