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Food Systems Finance Resource Center

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Food systems are an important driver for local economic development and the financing sources needed to support those systems are vast. Communities throughout the country are financing their food system with various innovative strategies to support local markets, first time farmers, new food enterprises, and neighborhoods lacking access to fresh foods.


The CDFA Food Systems Finance Resource Center outlines development finance tools that can be used to support local food systems, such as bonds, tax increment finance, tax credits, revolving loan funds, and other tools. Traditional development finance tools provide necessary capital for establishing food industry participants, supporting local farming, investing in agriculture infrastructure, financing food scarcity challenges, and starting small food-related businesses. A variety of innovative approaches and creative programs have been employed by development finance agencies to support food systems financing, which can be accessed in the resources provide below.


CDFA sees the potential for the broadly defined food system to become a desired and performance driven asset class. With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, CDFA is researching how development finance agencies can become more engaged in developing localized food systems through traditional finance approaches. The premise of this initiative is to suggest and then prove that, if organized and defined properly, the food system can become a defined asset class worthy of traditional investment. As part of this initiative, CDFA is currently producing six in-depth white papers that define traditional development finance tools and explain how they can be applied to agri-food businesses, featuring an abundance of case studies.


Learn more about CDFA's initiative to define the food system as an asset class

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-Defining the Food System as an Asset Class

CDFA is producing six in-depth white papers defining how traditional development finance tools can be used to demonstrate the viability of the food system as an asset class. The first white paper is an overview of development finance with an explanation of why and how these tools can be applied to the food system. The next four white papers will provide an extensive description of development finance tools that can be employed for food-related projects – access to capital, bedrock tools, targeted tools, and investment tools – alongside comprehensive case studies that successfully utilize each of these tools. The final white paper will conceptualize the future possibilities of the food system financing landscape.

Learn more about CDFA's initiative to define the food system as an asset class

CDFA Food Finance White Paper Series: Advancing Food Systems Through Development Finance
This is the sixth and final white paper in a series examining the potential creation of a food systems asset class that supports the market growth of local and regional food systems. This paper presents three replicable strategies for restoring local food systems: reframe food systems development as infrastructure and economic development; build effective relationships and partnerships across the entire food system; and plan for strategic food system financing.
CDFA Food Finance White Paper Series: Food Systems & Targeted Tools
This white paper is part of a series examining the potential creation of a food systems asset class which supports the market growth of local and regional food systems. This paper focuses specifically on targeted financing tools that can be used to geographically target local and regional food system developments.
CDFA Food Finance White Paper Series: Food Systems & Bonds
Researched and written by CDFA, this is the third white paper in a series examining the potential creation of a food systems asset class that supports the market growth of local and regional food systems. This paper focuses specifically on bond financing, which CDFA considers a ‘bedrock tool’ for the historic and foundational role bonds have played in public financing.
CDFA Food Finance White Paper Series: Food Systems & Access to Capital
Research and written by CDFA, this white paper is part of a series examining the potential creation of a food systems asset class which supports the market growth of local and regional food systems which meet the economic, social, environmental, and cultural needs of communities throughout the country. This paper focuses specifically on financing that provides access to capital, outlining this category of tools and demonstrating how they can be utilized for various types of food-related endeavors.
CDFA Food Finance White Paper Series: Food Systems & Development Finance
Many food-related initiatives, projects, and businesses have lacked sufficient resources and financing for economic and community development, largely because the food system as a whole has not been formally defined as an asset class. As the first part of a series, CDFA makes the case for a clear definition of the food system that directs development finance to food-related activity.
Read more about Food Systems Finance

-Resources

View all Food Systems Finance Resources

-Agriculture Finance Resources

Financing for Regenerative Agriculture
Production methods such as regenerative agriculture are associated with climate adaptation and resilience. Such methods offer the best path forward to preserving long-term viability of an industry that is foundational to basic societal needs. From a financier’s perspective, regenerative agriculture provides a way to maintain the commercial opportunity in agriculture via adaptation to changing climate conditions. By investing in regenerative agriculture now, financiers can proactively adapt food and agricultural value chain investments to changing climate conditions and take advantage of potential opportunities in transition investing.
White House's Climate Capital Guidebook
The Climate Capital Guidebook aggregates current federal funding opportunities—including grants, loans, loan guarantees, and cooperative agreements—for small- and medium-sized companies, both start-ups and established businesses, focusing on clean energy technologies and other climate solutions. The Guidebook also notes which programs are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Financing Food Systems with Revolving Loan Funds
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, panelists discuss how revolving loan funds can be used to support small businesses, entrepreneurs, and microenterprises to strengthen local and regional food systems. The discussion also identifies how these tools can help unlock affordable capital for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Bridging the Regenerative Agriculture Financing GapMembers only Login
This issue brief produced by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment examines the varying definitions of regenerative agriculture and details the three types of factors that make financing regenerative agriculture difficult: outdated financial models; difficult financial returns; and cultural differences between farmers and investors. Throughout, it highlights the innovative organizations attempting to overcome these barriers and the novel methods they employ and ends by considering a few promising approaches for the future.
2024 RI Food System FactbookMembers only Login
The Rhode Island Food Policy Council has released a first-of-its-kind resource providing a data-driven assessment of the status of Rhode Island's food system, incorporating the best available research and data, and presenting information on the state as a whole, as well as for each city and town. The RI Food System Factbook shares data on over 40 different indicators across five areas of food system health and well-being: Food Economy, Food Access & Security, Agriculture & Land Use, Commercial Fisheries & Aquaculture, and Climate Change. 
View more Agriculture Finance Resources

-Food Systems Finance Resources

CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Financing Food Systems with Revolving Loan Funds
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, panelists discuss how revolving loan funds can be used to support small businesses, entrepreneurs, and microenterprises to strengthen local and regional food systems. The discussion also identifies how these tools can help unlock affordable capital for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
2024 RI Food System FactbookMembers only Login
The Rhode Island Food Policy Council has released a first-of-its-kind resource providing a data-driven assessment of the status of Rhode Island's food system, incorporating the best available research and data, and presenting information on the state as a whole, as well as for each city and town. The RI Food System Factbook shares data on over 40 different indicators across five areas of food system health and well-being: Food Economy, Food Access & Security, Agriculture & Land Use, Commercial Fisheries & Aquaculture, and Climate Change. 
USDA Equity Action Plan - 2023 UpdateMembers only Login
A groundbreaking report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Equity Commission features more than 60 recommendations designed to make policies affecting farming and rural America more fair. A few key recommendations include institutionalizing equity and accountability as well as improving staff diversity at the USDA; providing technical assistance and translation services to help applicants submit applications for programs; and improving access to nutrition for disadvantaged and underserved communities.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Exploring Bonds as the Foundational Financing Tool
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, speakers explore the potential for leveraging this foundational financing tool to cultivate resilient and thriving local and regional food systems.
USDA Local and Regional Food Systems Resource Guide Members only Login
Local and Regional Foods are a small but vitally important part of agriculture sales in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Local and Regional Food Systems Resource Guide is intended to help stakeholders navigate USDA resources to strengthen local and regional food systems. Stakeholders can use these resources to partner with USDA to address climate change, create more and better market opportunities, support food and nutrition security, and advance racial justice, equity, opportunity, and rural prosperity.
View more Food Systems Finance Resources

-Food Financing Programs

Black Farmer Fund Annual Report 2021Members only Login
Challenged by the historically discriminatory lending practices that inform the lack of diversity and equity in our current agricultural landscape, the mission of Black Farmer Fund is to nurture Black community wealth & health by investing capital in Black agricultural systems in the Northeast.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Best Practices Guidebook
Linking development finance and food systems can be a daunting undertaking for any community. Research on the current ecosystem of food systems finance has positioned CDFA to identify key strategies for the path ahead in this work. The Food Systems Finance Best Practices Guidebook defines how traditional development finance tools can be used to launch and expand food and agricultural-related businesses and projects, and create successful food systems finance programs at the local and regional levels.
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Infrastructure Across Value ChainsMembers only Login
Regenerative farms rely on small-to-mid scale, aligned infrastructure to process, transport, and market their products. These middle infrastructure businesses help to improve farm income and bolster regional food economies while providing significant social and environmental benefits. However, their unique business models require innovative and patient forms of capital to grow and succeed. This report identifies finance opportunities and pathways to build resilient value chains for regenerative farms.
Mobilizing Money & Movements: Creative Finance for Food Systems TransformationMembers only Login
The Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative (TIFS) released a comprehensive new report that gives investors a roadmap of creative finance strategies that support entrepreneurs, farmers, activists, and social movements and helps to transform food economies towards healthy, equitable, and renewable systems.
Debunking Risk in Food System Lending
Food and agriculture-related businesses are often perceived as too risky for traditional lending approaches, yet CDFA research tells a different story. This report, with loan-level data from over a thousand funds nationwide, demonstrates that food system loans perform and that revolving loan funds can successfully support local food system borrowers in their communities.
View more Food System Financing Program Resources

-Programs Map

Search the map below to find food financing programs by state. This specialized search is part of CDFA's State Financing Program Directory, the only online resource cataloging the development finance programs offered by state governments. Click on a state to see a sample of food financing programs available. Login with a CDFA Member account at the top of the page to view full results.

-Case Studies

Your Guide to Organic and Organic Related USDA Programs Members only Login
This Organic Resource Guide provides an overview of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services available to the public that either directly or indirectly support organic agriculture. Some programs have the specific purpose of assisting organic farmers, ranchers, and handlers, while others may be of interest to a variety of individuals, including those in the organic industry.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Best Practices Guidebook
Linking development finance and food systems can be a daunting undertaking for any community. Research on the current ecosystem of food systems finance has positioned CDFA to identify key strategies for the path ahead in this work. The Food Systems Finance Best Practices Guidebook defines how traditional development finance tools can be used to launch and expand food and agricultural-related businesses and projects, and create successful food systems finance programs at the local and regional levels.
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Infrastructure Across Value ChainsMembers only Login
Regenerative farms rely on small-to-mid scale, aligned infrastructure to process, transport, and market their products. These middle infrastructure businesses help to improve farm income and bolster regional food economies while providing significant social and environmental benefits. However, their unique business models require innovative and patient forms of capital to grow and succeed. This report identifies finance opportunities and pathways to build resilient value chains for regenerative farms.
Mobilizing Money & Movements: Creative Finance for Food Systems TransformationMembers only Login
The Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative (TIFS) released a comprehensive new report that gives investors a roadmap of creative finance strategies that support entrepreneurs, farmers, activists, and social movements and helps to transform food economies towards healthy, equitable, and renewable systems.
More Case Studies

-Headlines

-Publications

Practitioner's Guide to Economic Development Finance
The Practitioner's Guide to Economic Development Finance 2nd Edition is the only comprehensive resource dedicated to building and utilizing the development finance toolbox. The Practitioner's Guide provides the insight and practical information needed to critically understand how economic development is financed and the tools, strategies and techniques used to build strong communities. From bonds, tax increment finance and special districts to tax credits, seed & venture capital, revolving loan funds and much more, this Guide outlines the financing tools required for succeeding in today's competitive economic development climate.
Unlocking Capital: A Handbook for Becoming a High Performing Development Finance Agency
Unlocking Capital: A Handbook for Becoming a High Performing Development Finance Agency (Handbook) serves as a companion to the Practitioner’s Guide to help illuminate the structures of development finance agencies (DFAs), essential conduits to access development finance tools. The Handbook provides an overview of DFAs and their myriad roles in various development efforts. Included in this discussion is a comprehensive look at over a dozen high-performing DFAs throughout the country. The Handbook is designed to be a starting point for local leaders to engage in the creation or acceleration of a DFA to build and utilize the development finance toolbox.
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-Upcoming Events

CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Empowering Agriculture with PACE Financing
June 25, 2024
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM Eastern
In this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, experts will highlight the innovative ways in which PACE programs are evolving to support the agriculture industry across the country.
Register
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Driving Food Systems Investment with Tax Credits
September 24, 2024
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM Eastern
In this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we will look at tax credit programs that allow businesses and investors to claim a tax credit for committing resources to a food system project or business. We will also explore how these tools can catalyze investment in communities that have historically been discriminated against.
Register
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Reframe, Build, Plan to Advance Food Systems Finance
November 26, 2024
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM Eastern
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, CDFA will present this customizable framework and illustrate how it can expand financing and drive capital into local food systems. Speakers will explore how this strategy can help focus resources toward socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the food system.
Register
View more Upcoming Events

-Webcasts

CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Financing Food Systems with Revolving Loan Funds
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, panelists discuss how revolving loan funds can be used to support small businesses, entrepreneurs, and microenterprises to strengthen local and regional food systems. The discussion also identifies how these tools can help unlock affordable capital for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Exploring Bonds as the Foundational Financing Tool
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, speakers explore the potential for leveraging this foundational financing tool to cultivate resilient and thriving local and regional food systems.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Restoring Local Food Systems Through Finance
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we illustrate the Reframe, Build, Plan framework of critical success factors that are needed to expand financing and drive capital into local food systems. Speakers discuss how this strategy can be used to focus resources toward socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and small business owners in the food system.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Investment Tools & Food Systems
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we explore how programs at the state and federal levels can offer unique financing solutions and catalyze investment in local and regional food systems.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Targeted Tools & Food Systems
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we highlight unique financing structures that drive food systems investment within a geographic footprint.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Access to Capital Tools & Food Systems
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we explore how these tools can be used in strengthening local and regional food systems and address some of the challenges that come with financing this sector.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Bonds & Food Systems
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we take a deeper look at a method of financing that has been building infrastructure, industry, and agriculture for over a century and explore its applications within the food system.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Don’t Throw Away Opportunity! Creative Financing for Addressing Food-Related Waste
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we explore how innovative partnerships are leveraging creative financing approaches to reduce food-related waste along the supply chain.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Driving Investment in Regional Food Supply Chains
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, speakers discuss opportunities to access capital and leverage federal funds to support new investments in regional infrastructure for food aggregation, processing, storage, and more.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Where’s the Beef? Financing Meat Processing Infrastructure
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, experts discuss financing solutions to reinvest in local meat processing facilities.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Cultivating Equitable Lending Models in Agriculture Finance
During this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we discussed strategies to expand access to capital for underserved farmers.
CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Debunking Risk in Food System Finance
In this installment of the CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series, we broke down the real and perceived risks of lending and discussed a variety of affordable financing solutions that are being employed by development finance agencies to invest in local food-related businesses and projects.

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