About the Rio Grande Colonias USDA Regional Food Business Center
The Rio Grande Colonias USDA Regional Food Business Center is a 5-year, $30 million project funded by the USDA to increase market access for small and mid-sized food producers and food businesses in Texas and New Mexico and help them participate more readily in the regional food system. The Center will focus support to historically underserved communities, particularly Colonia counties in both states.
This project functions as a cooperative agreement between Texas A&M AgriLife, the USDA, and several Key Partners and Collaborators in Texas and New Mexico. The Center will support small to mid-sized food producers and food businesses by providing tailored localized assistance to strengthen connections between rural and urban areas and increase collaboration between producers, aggregators, distributors, and other key players along the agricultural supply chain. By closing gaps to success, the Rio Grande Colonias Center aims to increase food system resiliency and further economic opportunities in the region. The Center will also establish concrete ways to ensure sustainable support beyond the 5-year project period.
The Center will work closely with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to develop guiding policies, track project progress, and expand the project footprint. The Center will promote its own services, but it will also share information about additional USDA and other local, regional, and national funding opportunities that food producers and food businesses can benefit from.
As the lead on the project, Texas A&M AgriLife brought together a team of regional agencies that will offer coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building support. Key Partners and Collaborators will play an integral role in the Center’s work by providing their unique services and expertise on topics such as business development, marketing, packaging, distribution, food policy, and co-op development.
- Key Partners: La Semilla Food Center, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement (SARA), The UTHealth Houston Center for Community Health Impact (CCHI) in El Paso, People Fund, and Feeding Texas.
- Collaborators: Desert Spoon Food Hub, The University of Texas at El Paso, Border City Distribution and El Paso County.
In addition to regional partners, the Rio Grande Colonias Center will also collaborate heavily with the other 11 Regional Food Business Centers across the country. By drawing upon the experiences, strengths, successes, and strategies of other regions, the Rio Grande Colonias Center can fine tune its approach and create even more opportunities for food producers and food businesses.
The Regional Food Centers act as regional hubs coordinating across geographic areas, with USDA, other federal, state, and tribal agencies with relevant resources, regional commissions, and the other Regional Food Centers. They also conduct outreach to underinvested communities and businesses.
The Regional Food Centers provide direct business technical assistance to small- and mid-sized food and farm businesses (producers, processors, distributors, and other businesses within the food supply chain) and food value and supply chain coordination.
The Regional Food Centers provide financial assistance through business builder subawards up to $100,000 to support projects focused on emerging regional needs and businesses that are working towards expansion and other investment.