Berkshire Agriculture Ventures Awarded USDA Grant
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Berkshire Agriculture Ventures (BAV) has been awarded a $630,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture through its Rural Development Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP).
Together with an additional $210,000 match from community members, BAV will use this grant to establish a dedicated, $840,000 fund that will enable BAV to issue loans to meat processors within the Berkshire-Taconic foodshed, over the next three years. As these loans are repaid, they will be invested into a permanent funding mechanism that will significantly enhance BAV's ability to support any kind of local food processing, distribution, and aggregation.
"The MPILP award from the USDA is transformative," said BAV Interim Executive Director Glenn Bergman. "It puts BAV in a unique position to continue to provide high-level support to regional meat processors that will increase their ability to meet food supply demands in financially and environmentally responsible ways. We are grateful the USDA recognizes the importance of our lending and technical assistance programs, and the resources we provide to meat processors and other regional food producers."
The creation of this additional, dedicated loan fund complements the work BAV conducts through its Local Meat Processing Support Program (LMPSP). Through the LMPSP BAV provides loans and high-level one-on-one technical assistance, ranging from financial planning to grant writing support, to processors and other agribusinesses in the middle of the local meat processing value chain. The LMPSP has helped BAV forge relationships with many of the existing meat processors in the Berkshire-Taconic foodshed and, with the MPILP funding, will now look forward to working with other regional processors to assess needs, develop strategies, and build a more resilient regional meat processing system.
"Thanks to the MPILP award," said Jake Levin, BAV's Program Manager for Local Meat Processing Support, "BAV can significantly expand its services to meat processors in the Berkshire-Taconic foodshed and continue to play a major role in the impact of our regional agricultural economy. Our dedicated team is ready to assess the needs of food suppliers and empower their potential for growth."
BAV previously received support from the USDA in 2021, when it received a $530,000 grant from the Regional Food Systems Partnership Grant to create a multi-year program that helped BAV address the vulnerability of local processing capacity exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The MPILP grant supplements the solutions and services from that program with a corpus of funds that can now be used to provide loans in perpetuity.