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USDA Continues to Expand Opportunities and Support to Small Businesses

Posted by Jacqueline A. Davis-Slay, Senior Advisor, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, USDA in Equity Farming Initiatives
May 27, 2022
From left to right - Charles E. Lea, Jr. Outreach Coordinator with MS NRCS and David Watkins Jr. Director of Up in Farms Food Hub, in Jackson, MS

As May comes to a close, USDA reflects on recent activities to support small businesses nationwide. The first of the month marked the start of National Small Business Week 2022. In recognition of the observance, USDA’s national and state office leadership connected with small businesses in states and territories that have limited procurement activities. The goal was to highlight federal opportunities to help build and grow their businesses.

These connections were made at the "USDA Small Business 201 Workshop - Accessing Contract and Procurement Opportunities", the second in a series of workshops designed to provide small businesses with information, tools, and resources to access federal procurement opportunities. USDA provides opportunities to small, rural, minority, women, veteran, and other disadvantaged businesses, and works to ensure that everyone who attends the workshops understands USDA's programmatic and procurement processes.

USDA leaders connected with businesses from Montana to the Caribbean. In North Carolina, George Sears, the director of the Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilizations, attended the Small Business of the Year ceremony with Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The event was held at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh. Guzman and Sears met with SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program participant Forward Cities Hub, the development center's leadership, as well as other stakeholders and small business owners to assess business needs and share available USDA resources.

In Montana, Kathleen Williams, USDA’s State Director for Rural Development (RD), met with Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), to discuss potential improvements to RD’s processes, funding opportunities, strategies for leveraging partnerships, creating new opportunities in distressed communities, and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center system. Headwaters, a non-profit, is focused on improving the economic well-being of the Southwest Montana through conservation, development, and employing the best use of natural and human resources.

In Oklahoma, the USDA field-based and state leadership teams participated in an outreach event with Arnetta Cotton, first lady and pastor of United Temple Family Church, to highlight collaborative programmatic opportunities for small and rural agricultural enterprises with limited English proficiency. The multi-county outreach event focused on “Getting Back to the Basics” and had nearly two dozen participating farmers and ranchers.

Businesspeople sitting at table

Staff from USDA’s Puerto Rico office visited the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBDTC) at the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico in Barranquitas. There, the department provided information about the programs available through Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Rural Development (RD), and the Forest Service (FS). Also identified were opportunities for beginning farmers, forest landowners, and rural communities to receive further USDA assistance in specific fields to include technical support.

USDA’s NRCS Outreach Coordinator Charles “Chuck” Lea dropped by a small business workshop in Jackson, MS where David Watkins Jr., director of Up in Farms Food Hub, was in attendance. Up in Farms is a service-based food hub that provides fruit and vegetable farm services to improve crop production, food safety and natural resource conservation for Mississippi fruit and vegetable growers and makers.

“Our goal is to help farmers make a good, sustainable living by growing food in a way that is accessible and affordable for Mississippians,” Watkins said.

Up in Farms links their production and food safety modules with USDA’s NRCS-based conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that allows growers to easily build comprehensive sustainability efforts into everyday operations.

NRCS State Conservationist Kurt Readus said, “We recognize the quality of these smaller scale producers. They’ve been terrific stewards of their own land for decades. Including them in our EQIP program will help them address some significant resource concerns with respect to water quantity and sedimentation—while also helping them reach their productivity potential.”

USDA is committed year-round to supporting and expanding opportunities for small businesses. Visit Small Biz | USDA for more information.

Category/Topic: Equity Farming Initiatives