Northeast Regional Food Business Center Established to Help Local Producers

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
regional food business center

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Northeast USDA Regional Food Business Center

What They Do: In May 2023, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Regional Food Business Centers program with $400 million in funding for 12 regions. The northeast region received $30 million. A lead organization was selected for each region to guide efforts to support producers in underinvested communities. The Northeast Regional Food Business Center is led by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), and its purpose is to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources.

The primary objectives of the Northeast Regional Food Business Center are to:

  • Increase the amount and diversity of regionally grown products and food businesses by providing technical assistance and financial support to small- and mid-sized food and farm businesses.
  • Increase the capacity of regional supply chains to identify, procure, aggregate, market, and distribute food products to major Northeast markets.
  • Build sustainability into the Regional Food Business Center activities to ensure continued growth and resiliency.
  • Coordinate a regional network of Northeast system partners and connect with other Regional Food Business Centers nationwide.

The $30 million funding will provide grants for:

  1. Technical assistance providers who can support local producers and farm businesses. (The application and evaluation process will take place from mid-2024 through mid-2025.)
  2. Business builders who are in need of financial assistance to successfully expand their operations. (The application and evaluation process will take place from early 2025 through mid-2025.)

* The grant amounts are still to be determined but will be: 1) Available only to small- and mid-sized food and farm businesses, and 2) Split into two funding streams with one encompassing technical assistance providers and the other building the capacity of individual businesses.
* The grants must be used within two years of being awarded to the business/organization.

How They Do It: The Northeast Regional Food Business Center prioritizes funding for:

  • Regionally produced food
  • Inclusive collaborations among food system organizations
  • Access and connectivity among urban, peri-urban, and rural areas
  • Food security
  • Capacity-building support
  • Helping agricultural and food businesses increase profits

The Center’s core team consists of the NASDA Foundation, the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement, Buffalo Go Green, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The Center is supported by a Community Advisory Council with representatives from:

  • Southeastern Massachusetts Ag Partnership
  • Farm and Food Growth Fund
  • CommonWealth Kitchen
  • Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center
  • DC Office of Planning
  • The Common Market
  • Farm Credit East
  • Farm to Institution New England
  • Future Harvest
  • The Carrot Project & Agricultural Viability Alliance
  • CEI Maine
  • Providence Farm Collective
  • New England State Food System Planners Partnership

A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council oversees the Center’s operations.  


  • NASDA Foundation: To enhance American food and agricultural communities through education, outreach and research.
  • Northeast Regional Food Business Center: To provide sustainable and equitable regional network coordination and localized business support to invest in farm and food businesses throughout the Northeast.

Latest project/campaign: A webinar series will be planned annually, with the first to be held quarterly through 2024. The first webinar was held in March and provided an overview of regional needs and economic development opportunities in the Northeast. The slide deck from the March webinar is available here.  

The next three webinars will cover:

  1. Leading the Center through a DEI lens
  2. Leveraging data to maximize the Center’s impact
  3. Complementing RFBC funding with external funding sources.

The webinars are free and open to the general public.

Major Funding: USDA

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Budget: $30 million over five years

Location: Virtual

Core Programs: Grant awards

Number of staff: 10

Number of volunteers: 0

Areas served: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia

The heads of state departments of agriculture in the areas served, along with representatives they have appointed, guide the work of the Center by providing strategic counseling and mobilizing their state networks.

Year Started: 2023

NASDA Foundation Executive Director: Chris Jones 

Contact Information: Email: 


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