WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture unveiled plans to create new Regional Food Business Centers through a $400 million investment.
The centers will support local and regional food systems coordination, supply chain development, and offer technical assistance and capacity building services.
“The USDA Regional Food Business Centers will decrease barriers and improve supply chain linkages for producers, processors and distributors and strengthen regional food systems networks and partnerships in response to hardships and vulnerabilities exposed by recent national emergencies, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the USDA.
Each center is designed to aid the growth of small and mid-size producers to create a more resilient, diverse and competitive food system.
Currently, the USDA plans to fund at least six regional centers, with one as a national tribal center. Three centers will be constructed to serve specific high-need areas, including the Colonias, defined as counties along the US and Mexico border; persistent poverty communities in the Delta and Southeast; and parts of the Appalachia region.
Remaining centers will be developed based on applicant approval from the Agricultural Marketing Service.
The new program is the latest in a series of USDA investment plans, having announced a $300 million initiative to increase organic farm development last month.