USDA Announces $78 Million to Boost Local Food

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Regional food received  an impressive new spurn of funding from the USDA last week. The money is split between the Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program ($48 million) and available grants from Agriculture Marketing Services ($30 million) targeted at giving much needed federal investment in “food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises.” 

Locally sourced food now accounts for roughly $7 billion a year  in sales but with any emerging sector, cash investments are needed to continue its growth, and its exciting to see the USDA taking a proactive approach and creating new funding options for farmers, growers, and sellers of locally sourced food.

This comes in tandem with the 2014 Farm Bill tripling the funding for and renaming the existing Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to allow grants to support regional food system infrastructure, as well as direct marketing programs for farmers.

These new funds are available to a wide variety of regional food stakeholders including; cooperatives, non-profit organizations, corporations, partnerships or other legal entities, Indian tribes, public bodies or individuals.

The USDA is accepting applications for the funds on a rolling basis, so our Northwest regional food developers should get their applications in ASAP.

You can read all the details in the USDA’s press release here.

Reflections from the National Gathering

What do a small farmer from Kentucky, Wells Fargo Bank, a nonprofit leader, a large scale natural food entrepreneur, The New York Times, and a local grain miller have in common? All were in attendance at this week’s Slow Money National Gathering in Boulder. There is no question that this movement is growing, with an increasing number of mainstream institutions and traditional investors joining the conversation. SM National Gathering

We just returned from this event, where we engaged in inspiring conversation with over 650 entrepreneurs, investors, and practioners.  Also in attendance were food luminaries such as Carlo Petrini, Wes Jackson, and Joan Dye Gussow, who spoke about the common sense nature of the work we do, the challenges to doing it, and the policy changes that will support the shift to a healthier system.

Twenty-five entrepreneurs from across the country pitched their businesses to potential investors, including two from Washington State.  Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies makes an organic grade seed coating which increases a plant’s resistance  to harsh conditions. This game-changing enterprise will present their opportunity at our Showcase on May 20th.  Also representing the Northwest, was CPOW Livestock Processor Cooperative, who recently broke ground on a meat processing plant in Eastern Washington that will shorten the supply chain and boost the profits of their member ranchers.

So what did we learn? We at SMNW are pioneers, and not just in the larger financial movement.  We have the largest budget of any of the regional chapters and our additional efforts have paid off:  NW regional investors have placed $5 million of the total $25 million for all 16 chapters.  While our focus has been on connecting entrepreneurs with accredited investors, our sister organization in North Carolina has had success with non-accredited investors as well.

Invigorated by the presence of  so many people with so much passion to fix our broken financial and food systems, we return to the Northwest with a renewed commitment to expand our work here in the Puget Sound Region

In case you missed the gathering it is possible to purchase access to the archives.

3rd National Gathering Oct 12-14

Slow Money’s 3rd National Gathering
Fort Mason, San Francisco
October 12-14, 2011

“The gathering was life changing. Welcome to a revolution!”
– Paul Tryba, THE FARM, Long Beach, CA

A phenomenal roster of speakers, such as award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki; a global thinker, scientist and acclaimed author Vandana Shiva, named by Forbes as “one of the seven most influential women in the world”; and Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute, which for 30 years has conducted cutting-edge research on sustainable agriculture.
The chance to hear investment presentations from two dozen small food enterprises and collaborate with folks from around the country who are finding new ways to connect money, culture and the soil.
Slow Money. A new kind of social investing for the 21st century. Join this emerging network of thought leaders, investors, donors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists for our Third National Gathering this October in San Francisco. Together, let’s fix America’s economy from the ground up…starting with food.
Go to National Gathering for details and to register (http://www.slowmoney.org/national-gathering/).

Woodbury County, IA Loan Program

Woodbury County, Iowa has been working hard to develop their regional economy through agriculture. Last week they posted a press release announcing a county based loan program designed to support local business growth.

“We have seen millions of taxpayer dollars used to attract large outside companies to locate in the area. What we also need to do is to invest in our own people to create or expand locally owned businesses,” said Rob Marqusee, Director of Rural Economic Development for Woodbury County. The ‘Investing in Woodbury County’ Loan Program is meant primarily to benefit entrepreneurs of the county who would not otherwise, but for this program, be able to start or expand a business. The program does not specifically direct what businesses the county will support. Opportunities are limited only by the imagination and the need for sound business initiatives.

The Loan Program will make available a total of $1,000,000 in loans to qualifying county residents at a target interest rate of two percent (2%). The costs associated with administering the “Investing in Woodbury County Loan Program” will not be from a tax levy, but from a source of funds is to be established by the Board of Supervisors prior to September 1, 2010. The specific application process, as well as objective criteria for making loans, will be posted on the woodburyiowa.com website on September 1, 2010.