North Carolina receives $6.2 million in USDA grants | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Katherine Zehnder.

    Earlier this month, the USDA announced its partnership with North Carolina, in which the state will receive $6.2 million in federal funding through the USDA to strengthen the food supply chain. This grant falls under the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI).

    "The purpose of the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) program is to build resilience in the middle of the food supply chain, to provide more and better markets to small farms and food businesses, to support the development of value-added products for consumers, fair prices, fair wages, and new and safe job opportunities," according to the USDA.

    In May 2023, the USDA announced that up to $420 million would be available through RFSI to strengthen local and regional food systems.

    The grants allocated through the program will be used to fund projects which expand the capacity and infrastructure for aggregating, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, and wholesaling or distributing of targeted agricultural products, according to a press release.

    "We are excited to leverage this $6.2 million in federal funding to improve the food supply chain for consumers, agribusinesses and farmers," said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a USDA press release. "Specifically, this program will better position produce, dairy products, eggs, aquaculture and value-added products produced in our state and will offer additional opportunities for profitability."

    Grants will be available for up to $100,000 for equipment-only purchases and up to $2 million for infrastructure projects through a grant application process. The grants will improve supply-chain resiliency and bring additional opportunities for profit by better positioning produce, dairy products, eggs, aquaculture, and value-added products

    "I think we all learned a lot of lessons through COVID," Shawn Harding, President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau told the Carolina Journal. "I think probably that's the first time we all sort of woke up to supply chain issues and actually saw some grocery store shelves empty [...] That was not because our farmers weren't farming; it was supply chain issues, and so it's that sort of middle ground there between the farm and, you know, the consumer. So, I think anything like this is a positive especially to help our small and medium-sized producers who maybe don't have the scale to do some of the equipment and needs that they have. So yeah, we welcome this grant and I think it's a positive."

    The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) will use RFSI funding on projects that expand cold storage on farms and packaging capacity, implement post-harvest handling, provide refrigerated trucks, and expand aggregator facilities. According to the press release, the state's priorities are informed by stakeholder engagement and outreach to better understand the needs of underserved producers.

    "Over the past three years, North Carolina has been able to successfully capitalize on funding to strengthen our food supply through a pioneering series of grants that have increased local production and processing capacity for meat and seafood," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a press release from NCDA&CS. "This program will expand on that mission. Consumers saw the importance of local food production during the pandemic when supply chain challenges disrupted the availability of some products. So, strengthening our food supply chain will greatly benefit consumers and producers long-term. We'll be better prepared for the future."

    The state will begin accepting applications for grant funding May 1-June 15.
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