Pawtucket, RI, Jun 25, 2013 -- Today, USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien joined Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and other local officials at Farm Fresh Rhode Island to highlight a recent public-private partnership to increase local food distribution across New England.
“Food hubs like Farm Fresh Rhode Island lead the way in expanding the local foods market in communities across the country,” O’Brien said. “They provide countless benefits to farmers, businesses, rural communities and their neighbors. They help rural economies and strengthen the economic and social relationships between rural and metropolitan communities. The innovative financial partnership at Farm Fresh Rhode Island illustrates that lenders and other funders also recognize the benefits of food hubs and market potential for local food.”
Farm Fresh Rhode Island connects more than 60 rural producers in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts with new markets in and around Providence, including restaurants, wholesalers, individual customers and commercial institutions. As a food hub, Farm Fresh Rhode Island provides aggregation, storage, transportation and marketing services for local producers and connects them with wider market opportunities. It is one of more than 220 similar food hubs in the country. The average food hub provides assistance to more than 100 businesses.
Earlier this month, Wholesome Wave, and CEI (formerly Coastal Enterprise Inc.), a non-profit community development corporation partially funded by the Department of Treasury, announced a collaborative financial arrangement with Farm Fresh Rhode Island. This financial relationship will allow Farm Fresh Rhode Island to expand its work with local farmers, double its product storage capacity, reach more wholesale buyers and significantly enhance its ability to provide fresh, local food to underserved families.
USDA has supported Farm Fresh Rhode Island with a Specialty Crop Block Grant to expand the organization’s ability to network with local growers. Last year, USDA Rural Development awarded Wholesome Wave a $200,550 Rural Community Development Initiative grant to combine rural and urban food hubs across New England. That grant was part of the Rural Jobs Accelerator, a partnership between USDA, the Department of Commerce and more than a dozen federal agencies and private organizations to provide funds to spur job creation and economic growth in distressed rural communities. Wholesome Wave also received a $327,600 grant from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
These awards are part of USDA’s commitment to support local and regional food systems, coordinated through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. This work includes resources from across USDA, including the online food hub portal with the latest research and information about food hubs and the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, which maps USDA’s as well as other federal investments in local and regional food.
USDA Rural Development also has several loan and grant programs and initiatives to help agricultural producers, and rural and metropolitan businesses develop new markets and mutually beneficial economic development strategies. These programs include the Rural Community Development Initiative, the Value-Added Producer Grant program, the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, and the Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, among others.
Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 15,000 loans and grants through its business programs, helping more than 60,000 rural businesses. Last year alone, USDA funding from these programs helped create or save an estimated 53,000 jobs for rural residents. For more information on USDA’s business and cooperative development programs, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Business.html.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.
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