USDA to create regional food business centers
By: Sydney Sheffield
During a Zoom call, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $400 million in funding to create USDA Regional Food Business Centers. The Regional Food Business Centers will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources. The Regional Food Business Centers will also assist small and mid-sized producers and food and farm businesses with the goal of creating a more resilient food system.
“The USDA Regional Food Business Centers will be a new, critical asset as we continue our work to strengthen and enhance local and regional food systems across the nation,” said USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Regional Food Business Centers will serve as USDA’s cornerstone in the development of the local and regional supply chains, building on lessons learned during the pandemic, providing technical assistance, and creating new market opportunities in areas where the need is greatest.”
USDA will fund at least six regional centers. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is soliciting applications from organizations across the nation to develop the Regional Food Business Centers that will be geographically based, serving regional needs. Applicants must define the regions that their proposed Regional Food Business Center will serve, specifying high-needs priority areas within that region. USDA indicated priority areas as:
National Tribal Center
Colonias (counties on the US/ Mexico border)
Persistent poverty or other communities of high need/limited resources areas of the Delta and the Southeast High need areas of Appalachia
Many agricultural organizations are celebrating the announcement. Sophia Kruszewski, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Deputy Policy Director said, “NSAC is pleased to see that USDA is structuring this critical investment in a way that builds on existing partnerships and initiatives and prioritizes resources where they are most needed. By ensuring the Centers are rooted in the communities they serve and prioritize meeting the needs of underserved producers and food businesses, these investments in coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building will help bolster the ongoing viability and resilience of our local and regional supply chains. We look forward to seeing on the ground successes from these Centers.”
Applications must be submitted electronically by November 22, 2022. To receive funding, the applications will undergo an administrative review to ensure the proposed activities fulfill the purpose of Regional Food Business Centers. Learn more about the program here.