NSAC's Blog

Rural Coop Development Grants Include Local Food and Food Hubs

November 21, 2013

Continuing a busy week of announcements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on grant awards that are building rural economies and local food production and markets, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $6 million in grants to 34 organizations from 24 states through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program.

Established in the 1996 Farm Bill, RCDG is a competitive grant program that funds non-profit organizations and higher education institutions to create and operate coop development centers that help establish, expand or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned rural businesses through technical assistance and training.

Today’s announcement includes several recipients who are supporting local food marketing and other ways to expand economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Among them, are:

  • Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems working with the Four Seasons Produce Cooperative to include a food hub concept in its aggregation and distribution functions, allowing small growers to deliver products to a central location for packing and enabling small institutions to order and pick-up packed products.
  • Ohio State University’s Cooperative Development Center, which plans to focus its services on assisting emerging and existing cooperatives in underserved and distressed areas of rural Appalachian areas of Ohio and West Virginia, with a two-state food hub development support network to include meat and dairy, grain, and fruit and vegetable producers.
  • The Kohala Center in Hawaii, which, in partnership with the University of Hawaii Maui College, plans to help develop cooperative business partners for its new Food Innovation Center and provide education to cooperatives and other businesses engaged in, or hoping to engage in, value-added food production. The Center also plans to provide technical assistance to projects being developed in underserved and economically distressed areas of Hawaii, such as a food hub for value-added processing of fruits and vegetables and a Mobile Meat Processing Cooperative to allow family farmers and hunters access to currently unavailable USDA-approved slaughter capacity, thus opening up local markets for small producers.
  • North Carolina State University, which plans to help develop new and existing marketing opportunities for “Local Foods” groups and initiatives, bring fresh produce food safety best management practices to farmers, and integrate methods within the entire food chain process.

Several other food system examples are provided in the USDA press release.  The RCDG program is one of several USDA Rural Development programs that help generate new marketing opportunities for American farmers and ranchers, create jobs in local food production, processing, and distribution, serve growing consumer demand for locally-produced products, and strengthen rural economies and communities.  NSAC’s Guide to Federal Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems has additional information on the full range of USDA programs.

The majority of the new RCDG awards are for cooperative development activities outside of the food and agriculture arena.  All of the centers operated by all the RCDG grantees will provide technical assistance to rural cooperatives and other rural businesses on feasibility studies, business planning, and other tools that help businesses become or remain viable.

A complete list of recipients is available here.


Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems, Rural Development

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