The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being encouraged to provide technical assistance funding for small and mid-sized farms and food businesses. More than 100 organizations representing a variety of interests are calling for $300 million in support. In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the organizations highlight the turmoil caused by the pandemic and the need for assistance.
“This type of investment into our future has a proven track record of improving regional supply chain resiliency. It will also translate into new wealth and opportunities, particularly for communities that the Biden administration has identified as underserved, including socially disadvantaged populations and low-income rural areas,” the organizations state in the letter. “Farmers and ranchers are entrepreneurs as much as they are agricultural producers. This past year has demonstrated that improved business skills and financial literacy are essential to enabling these businesses to survive unforeseen market disruptions.”
The funding would be used to support various types of one-to-one technical assistance for things such as financial coaching, succession planning, and market development. Small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers, as well as other food businesses in the supply chain have been struggling to make it through the market conditions created by COVID-19. Improving financial literacy can help these types of businesses better prepare for market volatility and make more informed business decisions in the future. The organizations note that this type of investment helps to create new jobs and ensure financial sustainability. A similar letter signed by 50 members of Congress was also sent in support of funding for farm and food system businesses.
“The pandemic has underscored the need to better equip these businesses – especially those serving local and regional markets – with the tools needed to capitalize on new opportunities, create jobs, and achieve a more resilient food system,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge the USDA to dedicate at least $300 million for business technical assistance, delivered in the form of multi-year grants to public and NGO agricultural service providers with a history of providing this type of assistance and a track record of increasing business skills, profitability, and access to land and capital.”