The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced selections for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers. Twelve organizations, including University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, have been selected to establish Regional Food Centers that 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, thereby closing the gaps to success.
In September 2022, USDA announced $400 million available to fund this initiative. In total, USDA will establish 12 Regional Food Business Centers that will serve all areas of the country, including U.S. territories. Regional Food Centers will target their work to historically underinvested communities in their region.
USDA and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources will enter into a cooperative agreement to establish a Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center that will serve California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The $35 million project will have a particular focus on the Colonias communities – communities within the mainly rural U.S.-Mexico border region with marginal conditions related to housing and infrastructure – of southern Arizona and California. (See Colonia-Community-Map at hudexchange.info.)
“USDA is excited to be partnering with the UC ANR on this innovative and unprecedented initiative,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. “By leveraging the expertise now available through these Regional Food Centers, USDA can offer unique support for local food systems development across the country.”
UC ANR will primarily serve to coordinate technical assistance offerings across the multi-state region, managing the timing, frequency and delivery of the Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center's overall portfolio of technical assistance providers, educational courses, workshops and trainings to reduce the potential for competing and duplicated content.
“It is so exciting to see 16 organizations, across four states, coming together with us to enhance and expand much-needed business support services to our food and farm businesses,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“Our strategy of quickly scaling existing successful programs offers quick returns on this investment, as does a focus on ensuring service for disadvantaged and historically underrepresented communities of producers, farmers and agrifood businesses.”
Collectively, the organizations selected reflect an impressive cross-section of the varied institutions, organizations and associations that must cooperate to achieve genuinely strong and distributed food systems. UC ANR and the other selected organizations are already engaging with grassroots food and farm organizations and employing a range of creative strategies to build food system resiliency in their regions.
The University of California will provide technical assistance throughout the state through its Cooperative Extension programs, consisting of the Small Farms Program, Regional Food Systems, Urban Agriculture Program, Community and Economic Development Network, and UC campus-based subject matter experts covering food safety, economics and cooperatives.
Partners include California Department of Food and Agriculture; California State University – Chico; California State University – Fresno; Occidental College; Riverside Food System Alliance; San Diego Food System Alliance; UC Santa Cruz; UC Davis; Valley Vision; Arizona Department of Agriculture; Local First Arizona Foundation; University of Arizona; Nevada Department of Agriculture; University of Nevada – Reno; Utah Department of Agriculture and Food; and Utah State University.
Collaborators include Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Center for Good Food Purchasing, Agriculture & Land-based Training Association, Prosperity Market, Farmer Ken, California FarmLink, BAR-C, The Farmers Marketplace, Lost Sierra Food Project, Northern California Chamber of Commerce, 3CORE, Chico-based consulting firm Morrison, Glenn County Resource Conservation District, Kitchen Table Advisors, Diaspora Groceries, The Larta Institute, Los Angeles County Food Equity Roundtable, Los Angeles Food Policy Council, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, Growing Communities Inc., Health Care Without Harm, Community Investment Corp, Pinnacle Prevention, Arizona State University, White Mountain Economic Development, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, Zion United Methodist Church, Reno Food Systems, Three Square, Blue Lizard Farms, Garden Farms of Nevada, Churchill Entrepreneur Development Association, UNR Desert Farming Initiative, Utah Farm Bureau, International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah Small Business Development Centers, and Utah Cattlemen's Association.
More information is available on the Agricultural Marketing Service's Regional Food Business Centers webpage: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/rfbcp.