WALKER — A Happy Dancing Turtle project to assist area ranchers with cattle processing received a financial boost from Cass County. 

   The Cass County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Oct. 5, approved funding of $200,000 to Happy Dancing Turtle as part of the American Rescue Plan Act Grant.

   Happy Dancing Turtle, in collaboration with other area organizations, reported in its grant application the $200,000 would be a 10% match for an Economic Development Administration Grant the organization is also pursuing. The grants, if approved, are going to be used to purchase a mobile slaughter unit and associated equipment to harvest livestock on Cass County and other farms in the Region Five area. 

   The grant application noted there was a major disruption to food supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the meat processing and distribution industry. A mobile slaughter unit would allow local farmers and ranchers to process their cull cows under  U. S. Department of Agriculture or similar state-approved inspections. Central Lakes College Staples campus will also be offering a meat-cutting program beginning in fall 2022, which will utilize this unit as a training facility. 

   Questions from county commissioners included how carcasses would be stored after slaughter and if other local organizations/grocery stores were in approval of the mobile unit. One representative stated approximately 50 different organizations have expressed support for the mobile slaughter unit and currently they are creating a local brand in order to market the processed meat in local grocery stores, schools, service clubs and restaurants. Also, as part of the proposed mobile slaughter unit, there is a refrigeration room and there would also be refrigeration units on the Central Lakes College Staples campus for storage of carcasses before processing.

   Happy Dancing Turtle is a nonprofit organization, home-based in Pine River, dedicated to growing good stewards of the planet by providing education, programs, and experiences for youth and adults that inspire wonder and empower change. For more information on visit happydancingturtle.org.

   In other business, the county board:

   • Approved the 2022 cafeteria plan costs and plan contributions as recommended by the Insurance Committee.

   • Heard from Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane that the 2020 audited finance statements and the management and compliance report have been posted to the County’s website and will be published in the newspaper shortly. There were no changes since they were presented to the board previously. Norikane also noted that all prior audit findings have been cleared and there were no new findings in the current year. 

   • Heard an update from Carl Newbanks, Certified Fund Raising Executive Grants and Development Manager, regarding the Initiative Foundation’s response during 2020 in Cass County. Newbanks reported there were numerous projects funded that were referred from DEED and for every local dollar contributed the Initiative Foundation has invested $4.36 back into Cass County.

   The next meetings are as follows: commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19 at the Land Department Meeting Room in Backus and commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2 at the boardroom in the courthouse annex in Walker.