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USDA Announces Funding for Regional Food Centers

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $400 million to provide essential local and regional food systems coordination through new Regional Food Business Centers. Vilsack says there are a lot of programs available through the agency, but many people have no idea how to access the help to improve their local food systems.

“There are many, many programs. In fact, there are 50 programs at USDA designed to help local and regional food systems. But you know, it’s very difficult for people to understand how to access those programs or even to know about them. And as we thought about it, it became clear to us that we needed to do a better job of creating a mechanism by which people could more easily access information about programs and get the kind of technical assistance and resources that would allow them to fully-access those programs. So today, we’re publishing a Request for Applications, an RFA, announcing the availability of $400 million from the American Rescue Plan resources to fund, up to five years, at least six new regional food centers.”

He says the centers will have three primary responsibilities. “The first responsibility is coordinate efforts across federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and governments to support local and regional food systems and make sure that folks are fully aware of how to coordinate and how to work and leverage the various programs. We believe that these food centers will also allow us to provide a better understanding of the programs that are available, that will invest in local and regional food systems, and to make sure that we focus, as well, particularly on underserved and unserved communities that are now looking to local and regional food systems as an economic driver, as an equity initiative. These centers will provide comprehensive technical assistance to everyone across the supply chain, from producers to processors to distributors, all of them will be able to obtain information about how they might be able to assist and help in producing in a state, in several states, and region of the country, a local or regional food system.”

Vilsack also talks about where the centers will be located.

“We’re designating and dedicating at least four of these six regional centers to be located in the following areas and to service the following areas. We will have one of these centers be dedicated to Indian country, a National Tribal center that will work with tribes across the country that are very active in this local and regional food space. The Colonias, the Delta and the Southeast parts of the country, and in Appalachia. We know that there are demands and needs for local and regional food systems that can service the economic and entrepreneurial opportunities that will exist in those areas. And it will allow us to also work very closely with our food and nutrition security programs to make sure that we are addressing the needs of those four areas.”

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on November 22. For more information or to submit a request, go to grants.gov.

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