July 16, 2010
This week, as part of the USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food initiative, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reported on investments in rural economies through development of local and regional food systems.
As Vilsack said, “By connecting farmers and ranchers more closely with consumers of food, we are creating new economic opportunities for producers and helping consumers to access healthy, nutritious food.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated $1.57 billion dollars to the Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program, which is administered by the USDA’s Rural Development Agency, an appropriation supported by NSAC.
On July 12th, Victor Vasquez, Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development, announced 11 businesses in 9 states as recipients of B&I Guaranteed Loans. Click here to see the USDA press release.
The purpose of the B&I program in general is to help improve, develop, or finance businesses and employment in rural areas by bolstering the existing private credit market through federal guarantees. The purpose of the local and regional food subprogram is to support farm and ranch incomes as well as the renewal of local food system infrastructure and community development.
Loans can be used to support and establish enterprises that process, distribute, aggregate, store, and market foods produced either in-state or transported less than 400 miles from the origin of the product. Individuals, cooperatives, cooperative organizations, businesses, and other entities are eligible for these loan guarantees.
In further support of local and regional food systems, Vilsack also announced a new feature of the Know Your Farmer Know Your Food website that highlights the vast web of connections emerging between consumers and farmers.
The new Ideas and Stories webpage creates a venue for sharing successful stories of food system entrepreneurship from around the country. The website also informs producers about USDA resources while helping consumers connect to their local farmers and ranchers.
Vilsack explained, “This showcase will serve a s a hub of ideas, local success stories, and USDA resources that showcase and strengthen the link between local production and consumption that benefits producers of all sizes.”
NSAC intends to do a more thorough analysis of local and regional food enterprise lending under the B&I program in the near future, and will share highlights with our readers.