September 19, 2023

Oregon’s agriculture sector could win millions in federal funding – Oregon Capital Chronicle

The thousands of farmers and ranchers in Oregon have the opportunity to get millions of dollars in free loans and grants from the United States Federal Department of Agriculture.

Last week, the agency announced it would spend about $3 billion to transform the country’s food system to benefit consumers, producers and rural communities by enabling small and medium-sized farms to expand their access to markets. and to offer consumers a wider choice of nutritious and low-cost foods. .

Unlike some single-crop oriented states in the Midwest, Oregon produces about 220 specialty crops, as well as beef cattle and other livestock.

Many of Oregon’s 38,500 farms are small or medium-sized, making it a target for funding.

The new money comes from lessons learned during the pandemic and the disruption caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, according to a USDA press release. A spokeswoman, Paige Blanchard, told the Capital Chronicle that some of the programs have state allocations while others do not. This means that these allocations will not be influenced by a state’s population or area available for farming. For farmers interested in applying, a version provides links to the different programs.

The funding aims to create more markets by funding distribution and local producers. “Having more capacity to gather, process, move and store food in different geographic areas of the country will provide more options for producers to create value-added products and sell them locally, supporting new opportunities economic and job creation in rural communities,” the statement said.

Supporting local producers will give people in rural areas more options and help the country move away from dependence on corporate food supplies, the USDA said.

“Covid has exposed the perils of a food system dominated by a few corporate actors,” the statement said. “USDA investments will help provide better conditions for farmers, ranchers, producers and consumers.”

The funding is also designed to make nutritious foods more affordable and promote equity by supporting producers in underserved and rural communities, he said, “USDA investments in food system transformation will create more economic opportunities for these communities and allow them to retain more of the food system. dollar.”

At the national level, allocations include:

  • $600 million for processing, distribution, storage and capacity needs in various sectors.
  • $400 million to create regional food business hubs.
  • $375 million for independent meat and poultry processing plants.
  • $300 million to help farmers switch to organic production.
  • $275 million for loans and other support for meat and poultry processing.
  • $200 million for food safety certification in specialty crop programs.
  • $155 million for grants and loans to entities in “food deserts” that provide healthy, affordable food.
  • $100 million to train workers and create safe workplaces at processing facilities.
  • $100 million to school boards to intensify efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals.
  • $90 million to reduce food waste.
  • $75 million to support urban agriculture, including community gardens.
  • $60 million to purchase commodities for farm-to-school programs.

Oregon seems to be uniquely positioned to gain support for the transition to organic crops. The state has 196,000 acres of organic production, the ninth-highest in the nation, and it is fourth nationally in the sale of organic foods, according to the USDA. California, Washington and Pennsylvania rank in order of priority.

Chris Schreiner, executive director of Oregon Tilth, which certifies organic farmers and transition assistancewelcomed the USDA announcement.

“We were thrilled to hear the Secretary’s announcement last week and to see that the USDA understands that organic can be part of transforming the food system,” Schreiner said. He welcomed the inclusion of technical assistance, which he said comes up often when he asks farmers about the challenge of switching from organic to traditional farming.

“We hope that we will have opportunities to partner with the USDA in the area of ​​outreach, technical assistance and support for farmers,” Schreiner said. “We look forward to hearing more details.”

Another area likely to generate interest is the meat processing initiative. Small producers say they have trouble finding facilities to process a few animals.

Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, Oregon’s largest agricultural sector, supports grants that fund all agricultural production as long as they aren’t enmeshed in a lot of red tape.

“The main concern I have with any effort, no matter how well intentioned, is the ease of the process to get money for the producer.”

Each of the programs has different deadlines, some within the next few months and others until the end of the year.