The HVADC Cultivator
The Agricultural Viability Alliance
The Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) is excited to announce its involvement as a founding collaborator of the newly formed Agricultural Viability Alliance (AVA). The alliance, which brings together agricultural agencies and service providers from across the Northeast, is enthusiastically focused on bringing diverse world-class Business Technical Assistance (BTA) to the farmers and food producers who need it to maintain, grow, and transition their businesses in an ever-changing world.
“HVADC has worked for over a decade to help Hudson Valley farmers and producers grow their business through access to BTA programming and professional advisors,” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “Now, teaming with other amazing regional specialists, the AVA will work in tandem to identify, develop and secure funding for BTA. The need is tremendous but our combined dedication to addressing it is unflappable.” Erling is serving on the Executive Committee of the AVA.
Business Technical Assistance is a catch-all covering a wide range of one-to-one services offered to farm and food business by non-profits, state agencies, private consultants, and extension services. Customized to meet the unique needs of individual businesses, these services provide coaching, skill development, and planning around financial and labor management, marketing and business strategies, farm transfer and succession, as well as access to new land and capital. BTA services give businesses the skills and support needed to achieve long-term success.
At the onset of the pandemic, many food businesses lost markets overnight, while others saw demand skyrocket beyond their capacity. Businesses who received BTA over the past year were far more equipped to pivot their operations to access new markets, meet new demand, address customer and employee safety, and improve
financial record keeping to access relief funding and make informed decisions.
While some of the AVA entities do provide BTA services to their constituencies, currently, there is no single-source program specifically dedicated to funding BTA for farm and food businesses. Rather, service providers such as HVADC generally rely on smaller, short-term sources of funding offered through a wide array of programs. This leaves many businesses which could benefit from BTA services without the direct, sustained support they need to succeed.
The AVA is working with American Farmland Trust and other peer service providers to stress the need for BTA support through the through the USDA, potentially using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This application of existing and available funds would lay a strong foundation for a more resilient food system.
Farm profitability continues to decline as agricultural debt reaches levels unseen since the 1980s farm crisis. More than one-third of farmers and farmland owners are at, or beyond, standard retirement age, and many lack a plan to transfer their assets—even as a new generation of farmers struggles to access land. The changing climate has made extreme weather events more frequent, and far more damaging. These significant challenges have only been amplified by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The USDA has been allocated $3.6 billion of the $1.9 trillion ARPA. Setting aside a tiny fraction of ARPA for the AVA’s detailed and impactful programing would have a restorative ripple effect on the agricultural economy for many years to come. AVA is now actively working with the American Farmland Trust to help shape policy and resource diversification for BTA programs at the federal level.
“The success of governmental initiatives HVADC has been directly involved in, including Nourish NY and NY Grown, have made a difference for Hudson Valley Farmers, but for our farmers and producers to meet 21st century challenges the federal government must prioritize access to Business Technical Assistance,” Erling said. “The Agricultural Viability Alliance will communicate with our federal leadership that funding resources that support the business of farming can be equally or even more valuable long term than existing subsidies.”
Along with its hard court press to secure new and additional funding for BTA, AVA member organizations are also working to deepen their bench of core service providers and expand their rolodex of the best and brightest business professionals.
“The agencies of the AVA have categorically dismissed the notion that we should be rivals for the same funding streams.” Erling continued. “We all realize that if we share the same goal, to lift up our agricultural communities through access to BTA, we must share resources and call for governmental action with a unified mission. The AVA is a powerful new voice for farmers and food producers in the Hudson Valley and across the North East. HVADC is thrilled to be a part of this movement.”