WASHINGTON — The second in a series of small business conferences aimed at increasing U.S.D.A.'s Food Commodity Contracting Opportunities for Rural America initiative will take place Dec. 9 at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, Ark. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is scheduled to be the luncheon speaker.

Designed to enable rural economic growth by increasing small business contracting participation in rural areas of the country, the U.S.D.A. initiative intends to help small farmer-owned cooperatives and small rural businesses to better compete for government and commercial contracts at the department.

U.S.D.A. buys more than $5.2 billion in goods and services on an annual basis that are essential to meeting the needs of its customers and the various missions of the department. Approximately 50% of this money is spent on food commodities. U.S.D.A.'s Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization and U.S.D.A.'s Rural Development, Farm Service Agency and Agricultural Marketing Services are co-hosting the conferences and at least four additional events will be held in other regions of the country.

The conference is being held in the S. J. Parker 1890 Extension Complex, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration is free. On-site registration will take place between 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. As space is limited, those interested are being asked to e-mail or fax their name, company name, full address, telephone number and e-mail address to:
[email protected], fax: (202) 720-3001 or phone: (202) 720-7380 or (202) 205-5949.

U.S.D.A. intends for small farmer-owned cooperatives and small rural businesses attending the conferences to:

  • Become aware of necessary capabilities and certifications to participate in Federal food commodity procurements;
  • Learn about U.S.D.A. resources for business development and technical assistance;
  • Establish relationships with key U.S.D.A. personnel who purchase food projects and who set and establish policy and standards; and
  • Learn how to increase and meet demand for their products and services within local food systems, U.S.D.A. and other federal agencies.