A new $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will boost the resources and assistance for farmers and food businesses in Appalachia.
According to Rural Action, the new Appalachian Regional Food Business Center’s goals include reaching at least 10,000 food and farm businesses through grants, technical assistance, and assistance with land access.
Adam Hudson, senior director of agriculture for the nonprofit Coalfield Development, said producers will be able to apply for funding for new equipment or other needs to help accelerate their businesses.
“These are going to be direct grants to agriculture businesses that can then use these funds to accelerate their businesses and improve their market ability of their products,” Hudson explained.
According to the USDA, the goal of the program is to transform the food system in rural communities to better benefit producers and consumers by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new and improved markets. The $400 million initiative is funding the creation of twelve new regional food business centers nationwide.
Hudson added the five-year grant will position the region for long-term scaling up of food and meat processing, distribution, and aggregation in Central Appalachia.
“We really want to take our time [to] make sure we’re executing this well,” Hudson emphasized. “So that we serve the farmers and those in the food and ag community well, and that they have a say in the voice and the processes and programs within this project.”
According to a report by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the region lost nearly 30,000 farms and nearly 2 million acres of farmland between 2007 and 2017, significantly outpacing national rates of farm and farmland loss.