Connecting, Strengthening and Scaling Food Supply Chains in the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Region

A Message from the Center: June 2024

Greetings from the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Regional Food Business Center!

We are well into the growing season throughout our 6-state region and ready to move into our second year as one of USDA’s 12 Regional Food Business Centers. As our region’s producers grow crops, livestock, and food businesses, there have been some fundamental investments at the regional and national levels to reinforce our production, processing and marketing infrastructure and value chain development.

Nationally, the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI) is providing funding for middle-of the supply chain projects to create improved access to markets through processing and aggregation investments for small and mid-size producers. Our region will allocate more than $24.7 million to targeted projects. Information on each of our region’s state’s RFSI programs can be found here. Note that Wyoming hasn’t opened its RFSI program yet, but this is imminent!

Following these substantial infrastructure investments is our region’s Business Builder Program which is designed to either leverage opportunities created by the RFSI grant program or fill in the technical assistance and small equipment gaps that haven’t been met through other funding sources. The Business Builder grant program will be easier to access than traditional grant programs, and flexible to meet our state and theme team priorities for investment based on how our communities prioritize their needs. Keep up to date on guidelines, calls for applications and more on our web site.

On the ground, our teams have been offering classes, events and technical assistance tailored to the needs of our region’s diverse stakeholders, creating a pathway for those businesses to explore and expand their operations. For example, throughout the Spring months our teams have offered grant-writing support to businesses developing RFSI proposals, Local Agriculture Market Program grants through USDA AMS, and USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer grants.

In Wyoming, our state team is providing education to producers on how to identify and access new markets for their agricultural products, and they are building a statewide branding campaign and platform to help consumers directly access Wyoming grown and raised products. Our Montana team has been working with food manufacturers to right-size their equipment and processes, and recently hosted the Mountain Meat Summit in Bozeman which connected meat producers and processors to new resources and markets for their products.

Lastly, based on the success that our Scaling Food Entrepreneurs team had in bringing new food businesses to the Incubator Village at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show in January 2024, 12 emerging food businesses are traveling to New York this month to participate in the Summer Fancy Food Show. These growing businesses gain their first national exposure to buyers and hopefully garner some new accounts.

This is just a sample of what our teams have been up to. Launching a new Center has been exciting (and maybe a bit stressful), and we are looking forward to sharing new and innovative programs and resources with our region’s businesses and communities in the months to come!

Join our contact list to stay in touch, and look for our next newsletter in August!

Martha Sullins

Program Manager & Theme Team Co-lead, Diverse Markets for Climate Resilient Ag Products, Northwest and Rocky Mountain Regional Food Business Center

Extension Specialist in Ag Business Management & Food Systems, Colorado State University

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