Kansas moves ahead with $6.46 million grant program to bolster local food supply chains

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USDA program focuses on food for human consumption, excluding meat and poultry

TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Agriculture began accepting applications Monday under a $6.46 million grant program designed to improve local or regional supply chain infrastructure across the state for foods destined to be consumed by humans.

The Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure program initiated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeks to expand processing, manufacture, storage, transportation as well as wholesaling or distribution of agricultural products. The investments would be concentrated on the middle of the food supply chain, which could be defined as the area bookended by harvests and retail stores.

The program would feature businesses engaged in specialty crops, dairy produce, grains for human consumption and aquaculture. It would exclude meat and poultry products funded through other USDA programs.

“In order for the nation’s food system to be more resilient, there is an increased need to focus on bolstering our local food supply chain,” said Mike Beam, the state’s agriculture department secretary.

He said the grant program was an opportunity to create economic opportunities for Kansas food and farm businesses and other eligible applicants, including nonprofit organizations, local government entities, tribal governments as well as hospitals and schools.

KDA plans to accept applications for infrastructure aid through Jan. 31. The state agency would score applications before presenting rankings to USDA in May. Grants would likely be awarded in July, said Brittney Grother, grants coordinator for the state Department of Agriculture in Manhattan.

“Our goal is to give applicants an ample amount of time to fill out their applications, develop their projects and their budgets, and gather their letters of support from those in their communities,” she said. “We are trying to help elevate those types of applications from small or historically undersererved farmers or ranchers.”

Officials said each application would be evaluated based on project need, proposed outcome and feasibility. Preference would be given to applications beneficial to underserved or beginning farmers and ranchers. Military veterans and historically disadvantaged owners of middle-of-the-supply chain businesses would be given priority.

The USDA, which is distributing $420 million nationally to build food supply systems, said grants for equipment ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 wouldn’t require a match from Kansas applicants.

Grants ranging from $100,000 to $3 million in Kansas would require applicants to contribute 50% of proposed cost of a project. Underserved applicants in this range would be responsible for a 25% match.

“There’s been increased attention on the local food supply and the supply chain nationally,” Grother said. “During the pandemic we saw so many disruptions. To build a more resilient food system, we need to bolster our local supply chains.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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