As agriculture in the United States has shifted to giant, corporate-owned factory farms, massive feedlots and industrial-sized processing plants located primarily in the
mid-western U.S., farmers in Rhode Island and the northeast region have witnessed the steady decline of agricultural infrastructure. Established in 2005 by a small group of Rhode Island livestock
farmers, the Rhode Island Raised Livestock Association was formed to find a way for RI farmers to address the steadily shrinking supply of local, USDA-inspected livestock processing facilities.
For livestock farmers in Rhode Island and New England the lack of local, USDA-approved meat processing facilities translates into a decreasing ability for livestock farmers to
remain financially viable. The consequences are many – the steady loss of farm land and open space; money being diverted from the local economy; loss of the region's rural culture and history;
decreasing local food security; declining regional food infrastructure; and lack of public access to healthy, sustainable, locally grown food, to name some of the problems.
The solution these RI farmers came up with was to "re-knit" a piece of the fabric of local agricultural infrastructure. The result became RIRLA's Processing Scheduling Service
(PSS). A business model formed in partnership with two local, family-owned meat processing facilities – RI Beef & Veal and Westerly Packing, Inc. The PSS offers farmer members a convenient,
local and cost-effective way to have their animals processed at USDA-inspected facilities. This in turn allows farmers to market and sell their cryovac-packaged, USDA-labeled meat and meat products to
the general public, increasing their overall farm income and improving farms' economic viability.
Founded by RI farmers, RIRLA is a member-based, member-driven organization. All Board members are working farmers. Assisted by grants from the RI Foundation and the US
Department of Agriculture, and with support from the RI Rural Development Council, the RI Raised Livestock Association is now an established and growing non-profit partially supported by its Processing
Scheduling Service (PSS). Besides the PSS, RIRLA now offers many additional benefits to its members including trainings, networking and other educational events for farmers, technical assistance, grain
discounts, a quarterly newsletter and more.