The year 2020 has been one of uncertainty, and there is no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the food industry. From temporarily closing of manufacturing plants to food product shortages, changes have been seen on a global scale.
However, the Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center continued to support innovation and growth of food and agricultural businesses throughout Oklahoma in 2020, providing a total economic impact of more than $6 million.
“This year has definitely come with its challenges, but FAPC and the food industry moved steadily through 2020,” said Roy Escoubas, FAPC director. “FAPC continued to support food processors with product development, food processing and sensory evaluations; provide educational workshops and trainings; and serve as a resource for the industry.”
The value-added food processing center had an economic impact of $39,750 on small entrepreneurial business, $692,000 on medium processors and $5.7 million on large food processors.
The FAPC team conducted 37 education and training sessions with 285 participants. The pandemic limited the number of visitors, but more than 1,000 individuals visited the center, which is a popular destination on the OSU-Stillwater campus.
FAPC professionals worked on 95 food industry projects in 60 communities and 45 counties throughout Oklahoma.
The center continued to focus on food safety and supported 48 clients in areas relating to the Global Food Safety Initiative and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point program.
During the economic shutdown resulting from COVID-19, FAPC was considered an essential facility and increased the harvest of beef to help meet the demands of the industry. FAPC harvested and processed 171 beef, 61 hogs, and 27 lambs and goats in 2020.
FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, was established in January 1997. Since its inception, the center has helped to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
“I want to give kudos to Dr. Escoubas and his team for how they have responded to COVID-19; the FAPC response has been ‘what do you need and how can we help,’” said Tom Coon, vice president for OSU agricultural programs. “FAPC did whatever they needed to provide training and resources to the food industry, especially in the area of meat processing. The center continues to have a tremendous impact on Oklahoma’s value-added food sector, which is an important part of our local, county and state economies.”