U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday investments in 11 businesses in nine states to support local and regional food systems. The loans are part of the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative and are from the USDA Rural Development’s Business Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, which received $1.57 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to help rural businesses stimulate their economies and support local communities.
"Our farmers are the most productive in the world, supplying much of the nation's food, and in so doing, are creating the jobs that are necessary to strengthen our economy," said Vilsack in a statement.
Although these Recovery Act investments were framed mostly in terms of jobs created and preserved, the program, in some cases, also will expand consumer access to fresh, nutritious food at grocery stores.
For example, Garden Fresh Vegetables, a vegetable grower in O’Neill, Neb., will receive a $3.9 million guaranteed loan to expand its greenhouse business by purchasing a 10-acre greenhouse and by constructing a new facility. The company currently supplies tomatoes and cucumbers to stores, including Whole Foods Market in Omaha, Neb., that have about 60 percent to 70 percent of the grocery business in Nebraska.
But more produce was needed in the larger region. “There’s only one other vegetable greenhouse of commercial size between Arizona and Chicago,” said Marv Fritz, operations manager for Garden Fresh Vegetables.
The loan will enable the company to expand its vegetable offerings beyond Nebraska to the “bigger part of the Midwest,” according to Fritz. “The loan will allow us to operate at a size to compete with larger producers and provide products in large enough quantities to support wholesale distribution,” Fritz said, adding that the company is working to expand retail operations as well.
And that’s just one example. Below is the full list of borrowers receiving Recover Act investments:
North American Co-Pack, LLC; Iowa State Bank: $1,890,000 loan
World Food Processing, LLC; Bank Iowa: $8,000,000 loan
Noxubee County Producers, Inc.; BankFirst Financial: $1,251,000 loan
Garden Fresh Vegetables; UMB Bank: $3,967,262 loan
Little River Trails Farm & Ranch; Cape Fear Farm Credit: $2,885,000 loan
Conn's Potato Chips; The Community Bank: $5,200,000 loan
Torii Mor Winery, LLC; Oregon First Community Credit Union: $6,000,000 loan
ASK Foods, Inc.; M&T Bank: $3,100,000 loan
Snokist Growers; Community Bank: $9,697,163 loan
Decatur Dairy, Inc.; Wisconsin Community Bank: $400,000 loan
Baker Cheese Factory, Inc.; Badgerland Financial: $4,500,000 loan