Union Democrat staff


The Union Democrat

It's time to bring meat processing back to Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.

Or so say a Valley Springs father and son, and other attendees at the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District board meeting last week.

Michael Kriletich and his son, Sean, approached the board about supporting a Mobile Harvest Facility in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.

The mobile slaughter unit would dock at a central location, such as a

fairground. Ranchers would bring their livestock to the unit. The

mobile unit would then take the carcasses to a processing plant, such

as the former Budweiser distribution building in San Andreas, which

could be converted into a processing facility.

"People want to do it," Michael said. "There's a little less driving, a little less stress on the animals."

The idea is a way for local ranchers to process and wrap meat in

the area, as opposed to spending money to do so in other parts of the

state. The father-son duo said their idea would help jump start the

local economy.

If a person spends $1 at a national chain like Walmart, only about

30 cents of that dollar is re-circulated into the local economy, Sean

Kriletich said. However, if someone spends that same dollar at a local

store, which is analogous to the Mobile Harvest Facility, about 60

cents of that dollar is put back into the community.

The idea could only succeed if everyone works together - something

that hasn't always happened in the past but could be possible, the

Kriletichs and the board acknowledged.

Roadblocks to the idea arose in the form of its price tag and U.S. Department of Agriculture approval.

Board member Maiya Morrison said she was under the impression the

USDA wouldn't approve mobile units - a necessary step if ranchers want

to sell their products. The beef would have to be packaged at a

USDA-approved cut and wrap facility in order to be sold, Michael said,

which would be possible if the plan grew to include the former

Budweiser building. That move, however, would significantly increase

the cost. A basic trailer needed for the mobile facility would cost

about $75,000, Michael said.

Involved parties would be adding at least an additional $1 million

to the plan if they decided to purchase and renovate a building.

"But will that be worth it?" Sean Kriletich asked the board. "I tend to think that it will be."

No clear funding sources have yet been identified. The Kriletichs

mentioned applying for federal loans and grants and creating

partnerships with local ranchers and agencies. They said they addressed

the board because a mobile unit is in line with the board's strategic

goals. And they need the board's help to move forward with their plans.

"I think everybody at the table agrees we need to do something," board member Kelli Fraguero said.

The board ultimately decided to form a subcommittee, comprised of

conservation district members, Michael and Sean Kriletich, and other

interested parties, to look into the idea.

"It's not really who's in charge," Michael said. "It's just that we're doing it."

The board also heard a presentation about the progress of soil

testing in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. The Natural Resources

Conservation Service has been testing soil in the counties since June

2006. There are 826,321 acres in the survey area and 503,183 acres, or

61 percent of the total area, have thus far been claimed, or tested,

according to a presentation by NRCS soil survey reader Drew Mather.

The conservation service expects to complete the soil survey by

fiscal year 2012 and expects to release data by fiscal year 2013. Data

will no longer be released in a paper report, but will be available in

a customizable online format, Mather said.