The Department of Agriculture plans to leverage $400 million to bolster local food supply chains through its new Regional Food Business Centers.

The funding will be split across at least six projects, and USDA has already identified three particular areas of focus: tribal areas, persistent poverty areas throughout the Delta and Appalachia, and the Colonias counties on the U.S./Mexico border. The projects “will 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 department noted in a release.

In a statement, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the centers will be “a new, critical asset.”

“Regional Food Business Centers will serve as USDA’s cornerstone in the development of the local and regional supply chains, building on lessons learned during the pandemic, providing technical assistance, and creating new market opportunities in areas where the need is greatest,” he said.

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USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is seeking “applications from organizations across the nation to develop the Regional Food Business Centers that will be geographically based, serving regional needs.”

According to USDA, the applications “must come from a partnership consisting of three or more eligible entities representing at least two of the eligible entity types.” Eligible entities include “producer networks or associations, food councils, tribal governments, state agencies or regional authorities, institutions of higher education, nonprofit corporations, economic development corporations, and partnerships between one or more eligible entities.” 

USDA will take applications through Nov. 22.

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