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USDA Assigns $400 million for “Regional Food Business Centers”


Tom Vilsack, secretary of the USDA has announced the allocation of $400 million for regional food system coordination and capacity-building through regional food business centers. In announcing the program, Vilsack stated, “The USDA Regional Food Business Centers will be a new, critical asset as we continue our work to strengthen and enhance local and regional food systems across the nation.”


It is proposed that the USDA will fund six Regional Centers located on the U.S.-Mexico border, in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and a Tribal Center with priorities based on persistent poverty and community need.


Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Moffitt noted that, “USDA is committed to supporting smaller producers, processors and distributors to diversify economic opportunities in underserved communities.”  Apparently, throwing a vast amount of money at areas with low family income will “decrease barriers and improve supply chain linkages for producers, processors and distributors and strengthen regional food systems networks.” representing USDA gobbledygook.


This initiative is yet another example of social engineering using public funds for which there will be little accountability and no prospect of continuing support under an alternative administration.


EGG-NEWS believes in a free enterprise market economy that promotes efficiency and productivity. Secretary Vilsack and his appointees should heed the comments of the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who averred “The problem with socialism is that it soon runs out of other people’s money.”


It is estimated that the $400 million allocated to these “Regional Food Business Centers” would have supported the education and training of over 1,600 specialists in diverse fields of agriculture including agricultural engineering, extension services, veterinary medicine, nutrition, economics, agronomy, and livestock production each with an investment of $250,000.  These specialists would have received training that would extend through an entire career allowing them to contribute to scientific and practical advances that could in theory enhance productivity over the long term and contribute to alleviation of hunger and poverty.


It is also questioned why the U.S. has pockets of poverty while the nation has to issues H-2A visas to guest workers.  Perhaps the USDA should consider programs to support relocation, providing housing, schools, childcare and directed benefits to encourage participation in agriculture by the underemployed in current “underserved communities”. Displaced sharecroppers moved westward during the Great Depression to find work in California some with assistance from the WPA New Deal after arrival. Has Grapes of Wrath been abandoned in high school English literature?  


Attempting to artificially stimulate production of food using social engineering is analogous to attempting to push a piece of string.  Only market forces determine allocation of capital, survival of enterprises and their productivity over the long term.