USDA processing facility.
This will allow us to process, for sale to the public, our Beef in our own plant - thus eliminating nearly all of our quality control issues. If your not familiar with the process, we currently hire an outsourced USDA processor to harvest (kill), age, cut, wrap and package our beef under USDA inspection. This allows us to sell it to the public.
The catch is this - those folks spend all of about three weeks with what takes us almost three years to raise. With one lazy shift manager, or someone having a bad day at the plant, all our work can be ruined. And, we'd have no recourse.
It doesn't happen often, but often enough that we don't want that part of the process out of our hands anymore and have made the decision to invest in a processing plant to be built on our Ranch and thus under our control.
We originally looked at doing this in California, but quickly realized the process would be tied up in the courts for years at multiplied millions of dollars. Although our customers are in California, there is a disconnect between policy, litigation and demand - so much so, that we'd be sure to be delayed for many years trying to get approval for such a facility. So, we turned to Wyoming - one of the most "small government" states we could find. Its also the location for our Guest Ranch and Supper Club. Carbon Vault (a 501(c)3) we run also does internship training for the summer at the Wyoming Ranch.
Even at that, we had to get a letter singed, personally by the Governor (and not to mention nearly all government officials between him and us) - its been a long planning process but we are ready to submit our package next week and (fingers crossed) we hope to be both approved and begin construction in the next year.
From there, we have 3 years to complete the project - can you say "red tape"?
I stopped by to see a friend yesterday who owns the plant we currently work with and asked him "what's it like? Should I turn back now?"
His reply was funny - "Doug, it's like working with the DMV every day and relying on them to help you make a profit", he continued, "one day its ok to do things a certain way - say, the same way you've done it the last 17 years and the next day its not, and they have the power to shut you down"
Wow- I began to question my own sanity. Am I sure I really want a government inspected plant?
When we relocated our residency to another state a few years ago, I found myself in need of obtaining a new driver's license to comply with state law. The requisite number of days before it would be illegal to drive anymore were fast expiring and figured I'd go brave the fires of the DMV and just get it done.
With a positive attitude I set aside the standard "full day" for waiting and harassment - but had no idea what really awaited me.
Armed with my birth certificate, ten forms of ID, two blood samples and my second grade report card from Mrs. Whitworth, I set out on the long journey. This trusty birth certificate had served me well in 20+ years of military service - country hopping, moving, re-registering at each new duty station, proving over and over again, without doubt that I had, in fact, been born.
It was worn and weary form all those days of turmoil, but valid, true and proven.
When my number had finally been called, I excited approached the bench, explained the ostensibly complicated transaction about to take place and awaited summary judgment as the certifying official peered over her horn-rimmed glasses examining my birth certificate with the precision of a laser guided missile.
"This won't due" was her response. "You need to write the state of New York and get a new Birth Certificate" - I couldn't believe it... what? How?
All of a sudden - I hadn't been born!
Being a Marine Officer and having to work with bureaucracy for so many years led me to pick up the phone and call this lady's supervisor at DMV high command. After a few push-button, press one for English, the I was finally connected to someone at the Death Star who knew what they were doing. We had a long discussion and after verbally explaining to her the situation, she said she'd call me back with a decision.
A few hours later she had rendered her judgment - the birth certificate would not do. Period. No appeal. I'd have to go through the 2 or 3 month process to get a new one. My was not damaged, it had the appropriate seal, date and other accoutrement that prove I was born, but it had a word on it that rendered it useless - "receipt". Evidently this word in the upper right corner (next to where the receipt would have been torn off by my parents) was enough to render it, after 46 years - no good.
So, I decided to trust the government officials and agree with them that I had not been born.
A few weeks later, I had to make a trip to the other side of the state. I, for some reason, still had my now invalid birth certificate with me in my travel brief case. While driving, I saw a sign on the side of the road that said "DMV, next right". I was ahead of schedule and decided to drop in to see if I could get a second (or third) opinion.
Sure 'nuff, my number was called and I told them I needed a new license, all the while, practicing what I might say, and hoping I'd not be arrested for try to submit an invalid birth certificate.
The gentleman asked for my old license, plus one other piece of ID - I handed both over to him and within 5 minutes he returned with a fresh new license. No questions asked. I couldn't help myself, so I asked if he needed to see my birth certificate. He said "Nope, you see that little star in the upper right hand corner of your old license?"
"Yes" I replied.
"Do you know what that means?" he asked rhetorically, "It means you have 'Real ID' and never need to produce your birth certificate again"
I couldn't believe that I dodged that bullet - all because, not one, but two Government Officials had no idea what or how Real ID worked. And, lets be honest here, this is not like making licenses is a volunteer position for the knitting club one Saturday per month.
This is their actual job.
If they had to be good at one thing, I'd think knowing about licenses and all the little symbols on them might be it.
So, If you want to know what working with the USDA will be like for us.
Just remember this story.