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Opportunity Knocks: Two Underutilized USDA Programs For Supporting Local and Regional Food Systems

Two USDA programs: the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee program and the Community Facilities Loan and Grant program.


Are you a for-profit business, a nonprofit, or a state, local or tribal government looking to finance a local or regional food system project? Listen to this webinar to learn about two USDA programs you may never have heard of: the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee program and the Community Facilities Loan and Grant program. USDA Rural Development can provide significant funding and technical assistance for local and regional food system infrastructure – and applications are being accepted now. Learn from USDA program experts and recipients who have successfully used these programs on this webinar.

Special guest: Kathleen Merrigan, outgoing Deputy Secretary of USDA and a champion of local and regional food systems.



Presentation Slides

Download the slides (PDF)




Questions and Answers

Q: Would the Community Facilities Loan and Grant program be able to lend/grant to incubator farms, in terms of supporting the processing facilities that are needed?

A: If it is a 501c3 in a rural area. If its a business than the B&I program might be better. KMS

Q: What was the web site to check for eligibility for the B&I program?


Q: Does the lender apply for the funding and then relend to applicants?

A: Yes, the lender submits the application for Loan Note Guarantee with supporting documentation, once approved they may proceed and close this loan.

Q: Does the lender apply for the funding and then relend to applicants?

A: the lender submits the project specific application to the agency and once the agency approves application it receives a conditional commitment in which they may proceed to close the loan

Q: do you have to be turned down for loans from other sources in order to apply for this loan?

A: No

Q: Would the new farm bill affect the Business and Industry Loans?

A: The B&I Program is continued through the President's budget each fiscal year.

Q: I'm not finding a map to search for eligibility for the community facility program like I found for the B&I loan program.  Where can I find that?

A: We do not have a map function, built into our website, but you can check population data through the census website.

Q: What website is Elanor Starmer referring to?

A: Two websites to start with: First, go to and click on the grants and loans page to see a list of USDA grant and loan programs that support local/regional food projects. Second, check out and explore the Compass map. Click on the image of a map and you can search the map for different programs/projects. You can also explore the map to see what's happening in your area by zooming in and clicking on dots in your region. 

Q: Is there a site where you can search for USDA that would help you know where food access projects might be funded?

A: Diane, I recommend looking at the Compass map ( - projects are displayed by theme, and one of the themes is healthy food access, so you can focus on the healthy food access theme and then click on the dots to see which programs have supported these projects (it's easiest if you uncheck the boxes next to other themes, so only the healthy food access theme shows up). You can also click on the search tab above the map, search by projects, and put “access” in the search box. This will return a list of projects that have been funded for food access work. -Elanor  

Q: how could groups enter their project on this web site? or do the federal \funders only do this for funded groups?

A: Hi Erin - Right now, the Compass map only has local/regional food projects that have been federally funded by USDA or another federal department/agency. But we encourage everyone to explore the map to find ideas for  new funding sources - you may find something that's appropriate for your project! You can search the map by keyword by clicking on the search tab, selecting “by projects” and typing a keyword into the search box. If, for example, you're looking for support to build a cold storage facility, search for “cold storage” and you'll see projects funded through a variety of programs to build cold storage facilities. Hope this helps. 


Presenter Bios

Kathleen Merrigan

Kathleen MerriganKathleen A. Merrigan is the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Working alongside Secretary Tom Vilsack, Merrigan oversees the day-to-day operation of USDA's many programs and spearheads the $149 billion USDA budget process. She serves on the President's Management Council, working with other Cabinet Deputies to improve accountability and performance across the federal government.
Merrigan brings a wealth of knowledge to USDA from a decades-long career in policy, legislation, and research related to the many missions of USDA.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan has managed the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort to highlight the critical connection between farmers and consumers and support local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in Rural America.
In November 2009, she made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Recognizing that most employees work outside of Washington, D.C., Merrigan has visited USDA field offices nationwide to ensure top-flight program delivery that meets constituents' needs.
Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time magazine named Dr. Merrigan among the "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2010.
Before becoming Deputy Secretary, Merrigan served for eight years as Assistant Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.
Under an appointment by President Bill Clinton, Merrigan was Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999 to 2001. She served for six years as a senior staff member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, working for Senator Patrick Leahy (VT).
Merrigan has also been engaged in agricultural policy in positions at the FAO, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Massachusetts State Senate.
Merrigan holds a Ph.D. degree in environmental planning and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas, and a B.A. degree from Williams College.
She and her husband Michael Selmi have two children in elementary school.

John Broussard

John BroussardSince December 2011, John H. Broussard has been appointed as the Director, Business and Industry (B&I) Division within Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) of USDA Rural Development in Washington, DC. As the B&I Division Director, Broussard directs nationwide rural development activities of the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program of USDA Rural Development administering a portfolio in excess of $8.5 Billion. Prior to becoming Division Director, he served as the Program Director for Rural Business-Cooperative Service for the State of Louisiana and has been with USDA since 1983.

Kevin Deighan

Kevin Deighan

Kevin Deighan joined the Army after graduation serving in the 82nd Airborne; he then attended Chesapeake College earning an Associate’s Degree in Political Science. He worked as a sales associate for Fred Beans Ford in Doylestown, PA. before getting married and starting his own successful Company, Deighan Paving, which he owned and operated in Pennsylvania for many years before moving his family back to the Eastern Shore. Once back he continued to be an independent equipment operator; he most recently worked for Mike Davidson LLC. who unfortunately went out of business due to the recession. Deighan assisted Shore Gourmet Marketing Director, Fred Smyth for several months prior to assuming the role of General Manager, September 2010.

Alex Gyori

Alex GyoriAlex Gyori has been at the Brattleboro Food Co-op as manager since 1982.  In that time the co-op, in a town with a population of 12,000,  grew from a $600,000 a year natural foods co-op with 5 employees to almost $18 million today with more than 160 employees full and part time.  As of last September, the co-op was selling over $2 million per year of locally produced food products.

Brooke Johnson

Brooke JohnsonBrooke Johnson serves as the Chief Operations and Programs Officer for Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County in Watsonville, California. Her team provides food, bilingual nutrition education, CalFresh (SNAP) outreach and application assistance, and referrals to 55,000 county residents per month, in partnership with 200 member agencies and programs. They distribute 8.3 million pounds of food annually; more than 60% is fresh produce. Brooke was previously t he Executive Director of Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, a food pantry and kitchen in Watsonville, California, and also conducted participatory homeless research in California and Nevada for Applied Survey Research. She holds an M.S. in Community Development from UC Davis and a B.A. in Geography from UC Berkeley. She serves on the Board of Directors of Dientes Community Dental Clinic and the advisory boards for Project Homeless Connect Santa Cruz County and the Notre Dame AmeriCorps team serving the Pajaro Valley, of which she is an alumna.  

Karen Safer

Karen SaferKaren started at the USDA in August of 2011. Most recently she came from HUD’s Office of Healthcare Programs and was there for 3 years. Prior to that, she worked as a multifamily developer for 7 years. She has experience as a real estate lender for Bank of America and has worked for the State of Maryland’s Office of Housing and Community Development.  Prior to that, she worked for the Housing Opportunities Commission in Kensington, MD.  She has a deep understanding of underwriting standards, lending and project development and execution.  She is currently a part of three task forces at USDA.


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