The USDA continues to expand opportunities and support for small businesses

Posted by Jacqueline A. Davis-Slay, Senior Advisor, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, USDA in Farming Initiatives

May 27, 2022

Towards the end of May, the USDA reflects on recent activity to support small businesses nationwide. The first of the month marked the start of National Small Business Week 2022. In recognition of compliance, leadership from the USDA’s national and state offices connected with small businesses in states and territories that have limited sourcing activities. The goal was to highlight federal opportunities to help build and grow their businesses.

Those 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 for accessing government procurement opportunities. USDA provides opportunities for small, rural, minority, women’s, veterans and other disadvantaged businesses and works to ensure that everyone who attends the workshops understands USDA’s program and procurement processes.

USDA leaders connected with companies from Montana to the Caribbean. In North Carolina, George Sears, director of the Office for the Utilization of Small Disadvantaged Businesses, attended the event Small Business of the Year Ceremony with Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The event took place at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh. Guzman and Sears met with Forward Cities Hub, participants in SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program, development center leadership, and other stakeholders and small business owners to assess business needs and share available USDA resources.

In Montana, USDA Country Director for Rural Development (RD), Kathleen Williams, met with the Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) to discuss possible improvements in RD’s processes, funding opportunities, strategies for leveraging partnerships, and creating new opportunities in discuss distressed communities, and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center system. Headwaters, a not-for-profit organization, is focused on improving the economic well-being of Southwest Montana through the conservation, development, and optimal use of natural and human resources.

In Oklahoma, USDA’s local and state leadership teams participated in an outreach event with Arnetta Cotton, first lady and pastor of United Temple Family Church, to highlight programmatic collaborative opportunities for small and rural farming businesses with limited English skills. The multi-county outreach event focused on “back to basics” and had nearly two dozen farmers and ranchers in attendance.

Business people sit at the table

USDA Puerto Rico office staff visited the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBDTC) at the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico in Barranquitas. There, the department provided information on the programs offered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Rural Development (RD) and the Forest Service (FS). It also identified opportunities for would-be farmers, forest landowners and rural communities to receive additional USDA assistance in specific areas, including technical assistance.

USDA NRCS Outreach Coordinator Charles “Chuck” Lea stopped by a small business workshop in Jackson, MS attended by David Watkins Jr., director of the Up in Farms Food Hub. Up in Farms is a service-based food center that provides fruit and vegetable farm services to improve crop production, food safety and natural resource conservation for fruit and vegetable growers and producers in Mississippi.

“Our goal is to help farmers live good, sustainable lives by growing food in ways that are accessible and affordable for Mississippi residents,” said Watkins.

Up in Farms connects its production and food safety modules to the USDA’s NRCS-based conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which allows growers to easily integrate comprehensive sustainability efforts into day-to-day operations.

NRCS State Conservationist Kurt Readus said, “We recognize the quality of these smaller producers. They have been excellent stewards of their own country for decades. Adding them to our EQIP program will help them address some significant resource issues related to water quantity and sedimentation – while helping them realize their productivity potential.”

The USDA is committed to supporting and expanding opportunities for small businesses throughout the year. Visit Small Biz | USDA for more information.

Agricultural initiatives

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