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USDA and the North Central Regional Food Business Center Make Available $600,000 to Farm and Food Businesses in First Round of Business Builder Grants

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $600,000 in Business Builder Grants to provide financial assistance for small and mid-sized farm and food businesses with projects focused on regional needs. The funding, provided through USDA’s North Central Regional Food Business Center, is available to fund projects in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, and will provide access to capital needed to launch and expand businesses while working to build income streams or identify needed investors.

In May 2023, USDA awarded $360 million to finalists to establish 12 USDA Regional Food Business Centers and a National Intertribal Food Business Center to provide essential local and regional food systems coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building. These Centers assist small and mid-sized producers and food and farm businesses with the goal of creating a more resilient, diverse, and competitive food system. The North Central Regional Food Business Center, led by the Region Five Development Commission, focuses on expanding this in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Local and regional food systems are essential to the overall food supply chain and the new Regional Food Business Centers are the cornerstone of our efforts to support them. The Centers provide technical assistance to create new value chain connections, expanding supply to and demand from new and existing markets, improving viability and increasing market value of products, aiding with business and succession planning, and fostering connections at both state and national levels. The USDA North Central Regional Food Business Center is prioritizing increasing sales for underserved small producers and working directly with each state’s Farmer’s Union and a diverse set of partners including the Latino Economic Development Center, Native Community Development Financial Institutions, producer groups, and Economic Development Districts.

The USDA North Central Regional Food Business Center has allocated a total of $3 million for their Business Builder program. The North Central Business Builder program will accept proposals for this funding in the spring of each year of the five-year program for subawards of up to $50,000 each. This is a competitive award opportunity with no match required. The Center’s network of contracted technical assistance providers offers application support services to eligible entities seeking to apply.

“The Regional Food Business Centers are a cornerstone of USDA’s food system transformation efforts, serving to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access the resources and technical assistance they need to access new markets,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Center’s Business Builder Grant program will empower the region’s small and mid-sized farmers and food businesses to launch and expand their operations by establishing new revenue streams and gaining investors. This program is crucial to achieving the vision the Biden-Harris Administration and USDA has of a food system that fosters opportunities for regional food businesses and rural economies.”

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity for growers, producers, aggregators, distributors, processors, and food access points who have traditionally struggled to successfully access federal programs that expand markets and impact local economies,” said Cheryal Hills, Executive Director of the Region Five Development Commission.

The North Central Business Builder Grant program will prioritize:

  • Groups or consortiums of small to mid-sized local foods value chain businesses;
  • Those seeking to expand markets to institutions;
  • Those meeting a specific market bottleneck or meet regional action plan goals;
  • Applicants within or serving areas within the states’ zip codes identified as distressed; and
  • Geographic distribution of awards across the 3-State region.

The North Central Regional Food Business Center is accepting applications for this funding through April 30, 2024. For more information on eligibility and how to apply, visit the North Central Regional Food Business Center website.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

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