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USDA establishes the "MiNKota Regional Food Business Center"

The US Department of Agriculture has established the “MiNKota Regional Food Business Center,” which includes North and South Dakota, and Minnesota.

USDA is looking to expand small and mid-sized agricultural food and supply chains.

The North Dakota Farmers Union is part of that effort. Farmers Union president Mark Watne said the COVID pandemic exposed some weaknesses within food delivery and supply chain systems.

"Just the fact that we had empty shelves during COVID, simply because we're trying to be a 'just-in-time' delivery system, without a lot of backstops," Watne said. "I think this will create opportunities for people to produce more locally, for people to buy more locally, to try and get a little bigger mechanisms of logistics to be able to supply consumers, if there are periods of time when our 'just-in-time' delivery system can't function."

Watne said the Center is an important step towards building local and regional demand for products, as well as expanding food processing capacity. He said he hopes this will mean success for the local entrepreneurs.

"It's not as simple as, 'Okay, now I'm going to process meat, and I'm going into the marketplace and make money,'" Watne said. "You still have to be competitive. You have to develop your marketing channels, and build a customer base."

Watne said he hopes there won't be failures in the ones that are taking off. And he hopes this will lead to more systems being created.

The Minnesota and South Dakota Farmers’ Unions are also partners in the project.