May 15, 2023
Business Technical Assistance is now front and center
Agriculture in the Hudson Valley and across the Northeast region is getting a boost with the establishment of the USDA Northeast Regional Food Business Center which was announced in early May. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation (NASDA) was selected to run the Northeast Regional Food Business Center, which is one of 12 centers opening throughout the county.
The Regional Food Business Centers will help farmers, ranchers and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state and local resources, thereby closing the gaps to success. The Northeast Regional Food Business Center will work specifically in 11 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The centers will focus towards serving historically underinvested communities and will provide coordination, Business Technical Assistance (BTA) and capacity building for food businesses.
“The announcement of the centers specifically being named as being responsible for BTA is significant as an acknowledgement of the importance of these services and the organizations which provide them in supporting the viability, growth and sustainability of farmers,” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “HVADC along with agricultural organizations from all regions who provide BTA have been working hard to advocate for the need for this type of dedicated funding individually and collectively for years,” he continued.
The history behind the establishment of the centers dates back to May 2021, when HVADC joined 119 agricultural advocacy organizations from around the country in petitioning the USDA to set aside a portion of Coronavirus relief funding for one-to-one BTA. In addition, 50 Members of Congress similarly encouraged USDA to support BTA for agribusinesses. USDA responded to that request with its establishment of two initiatives: the Farm Service Agency’s Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access Program, and the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Regional Food Business Centers – which now in 2023 are coming to fruition.
In June 2021 Erling testified before Congress and in July 2021 he met personally with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as he was visiting the Hudson Valley, and after, met with then U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado as part of Delgado’s Agricultural Advisory Committee. In all instances, he stressed the vital need for BTA specifically supporting agribusinesses in the region.
More recently this March, HVADC joined a second national effort of 135 organizations in petitioning the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees calling for dedicated funding for BTA and farm viability funding in the upcoming Farm Bill.
When the competitive application process for the Regional Food Business Centers opened, HVADC and the Agricultural Viability Alliance, with Erling acting on behalf of both, worked behind the scenes to advocate that one of the 12 centers be placed in the Northeast. Erling is also a founding member of the Alliance, Executive Committee Member, and chairs its Policy Committee. HVADC worked closely with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets staff on the grant writing team for the Northeast’s bid for a location. Interacting with consultants specializing in the knowledge of the demographics, historical relevance and knowledge of the infrastructures of the entire Northeast region’s food systems and agricultural support groups, the team submitted a compelling application with NASDA named as the lead to facilitate the proposed center.
“With the states being covered by the Northeast center, HVADC sits squarely in the middle, both geographically and conceptually. This opens up a world of opportunity for HVADC to build new relationships with organizations throughout the region, coordinating resources, programs and funding,” Erling said. “In addition to getting BTA the attention and funding that it has always deserved, in the end, this is a win for agriculture and a win for farmers in the Hudson Valley.”