Sea Grant Helps Catfish Processor with $7 Million Grant
What started out as catfish traps for extra cash in 1975 grew into a 100,000 square foot facility in the heart of Henderson. And the business is about to grow again with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant.
Guidry’s Catfish and Processing Inc – the largest catfish processing facility in the state – buys from about 40 industry farmers, turning out more than 70 products for the foodservice industry and retail customers. With the help of Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter, Guidry’s received $7 million in USDA grant funds from the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP).
MPPEP provides grants to help eligible processors expand their capacity, encourage competition and promote sustainable growth in the U.S. meat processing sector. Funds can be used for: building or expanding processing facilities; updating equipment; keeping compliant with packaging/labeling and safety requirements; and supporting workforce recruitment, training and retention
Guidry’s first learned about the program from The Catfish Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes US farm-raised catfish products. Co-owners Cherrie Guidry and Joshua Guidry then researched if the company could be eligible for the MPPEP grant, reaching-out to the local USDA office as well as contacts at Louisiana State University – which included Sea Grant and AgCenter marine extension agent Thu Bui.
The big question Bui had for Louisiana Sea Grant’s Law & Policy Program (LSGLPP): Does catfish qualify as meat under USDA guidelines?
Ultimately, LSGLPP determined that “all fish of the order Siluriformes” are considered meat by the USDA, with LSG/AgCenter seafood specialist Evelyn Watts confirming that catfish are Siluriformes.
“Between Sea Grant Legal and my understanding of regulations and USDA structure, we were able to identify that catfish processors were eligible to apply for this opportunity,” Watts said. In addition, Watts provided a letter to support Guidry’s application, citing the many ways that the company has collaborated with LSU over the years to identify opportunities for the seafood industry in Louisiana as well as nationwide.
And following a feasibility study conducted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, plus multiple letters of support from the LSU AgCenter, Guidry’s was awarded the $7 million MPPEP grant.
The company intends to use the funding to expand their current building and construct a partially frying (par-frying) facility which should help them expand to a national level. They also plan to add two more production lines and purchase new robotics equipment that should increase productivity by 30 percent.
“We hope that this expansion will create new jobs,” Cherrie Guidry said. “This money will allow us to continue to provide quality seafood products and create new revenue sources in the local community.”