Nearly $24 million will be available for projects strengthening local and regional food systems in seven U.S. states.
A grant program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure initiative, will help Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Utah and West Virginia expand capacity for food aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesale and distribution.
Infrastructure focused on specialty crops, dairy, grains, aquaculture and other products but excluding meat and poultry are eligible for funding. This program is funded through the COVID-era $1.9 trillion economic stimulus American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and is intended to provide similar support to that provided in other USDA funding for meat and poultry processing, but for the non-meat and poultry sectors.
The department’s RFSI program allocates a certain amount to each state, which then sets up its own processes for businesses and other entities to apply for a portion of those funds. The application period is still open for many states offering grants.
Colorado was awarded $4.1 million and has $3 million available for grants. To increase access to institutional markets and expand into consumer markets, Colorado will fund projects that increase aggregation and storage options, such as cold and dry storage; quick freezing, freeze drying, drying, purees and canning facilities.
Connecticut has received $2.7 million and will make $2.1 million available for grants. Through food hubs and informal producer networks, Connecticut will fund projects that increase the aggregation of farm products, improve delivery infrastructure, increase cold storage for produce, dairy and aquaculture products, and expand processing facilities, including commercial kitchens and co-packers, to preserve farm products and develop value-added products.
Delaware, which was awarded $2.1 million has $1.7 million for infrastructure grants. Among the projects Delaware will fund are those that provide technical assistance to producers working on developing value-added products; expand access to climate-smart technologies to farmers and food waste management; and create facilities for aggregating products, storing them in cold storage, warehousing and distributing them.
Kentucky, which was given $8 million and has $7 million available in grants, will fund projects that increase cold storage, expand processing capacity, upgrade information technology systems within the supply chain and improve product aggregation at wholesale and collection points. The state will prioritize projects supporting horticulture and value-added dairy products.
Louisiana, which was awarded $6.2 million and has $4.6 million available in grants, will fund projects that increase the capacity for processing, distribution, cold storage, food preparation and packaging. Louisiana will also consider projects that improve worker safety conditions and implement staffing for middle-of-the-supply chain infrastructure activities.
Utah was awarded $3 million and has $2.3 million available in funding. The state will finance projects that increase in-state processing and distribution which will lead to an overall increase in local, regional, and national sales of Utah-grown, raised, and processed agricultural products.
West Virginia, which was awarded $4.5 million and has $3.6 million in funding available, will fund projects that expand processing capacities, increase production volumes and support new wholesale/retail product lines. The state will also consider projects that purchase and install specialized equipment, such as processing components, sorting equipment, packing and labeling equipment, or delivery vehicles and increase storage space, including cold storage.
To date, RFSI has awarded over $270 million through cooperative agreements with state departments of agriculture to build resilience across the middle of the food supply chain and strengthen local and regional food systems. In May 2023, USDA announced the availability of up to $420 million through the program to create food systems infrastructure to support competitive and profitable market access for domestic farm products and create more economic opportunities for communities, allowing them to retain more of the value chain dollar.
Photo by Carol M. Highsmith