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Food Systems Finance Resource Center

Learn More About This Tool

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 own food systems with various innovative strategies to support local markets, first time farmers, new food enterprises, and neighborhoods lacking food access.


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, special assessment districts, revolving loan funds and others. Traditional development finance tools provide access to capital for establishing food industry participants, supporting local farming, investing in the food delivery infrastructure, financing food scarcity challenges, and starting small food 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.


Learn more about Food Systems Financing

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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.

-Food Systems Finance Resources

Agricultural Lending: Credit to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Is Limited
Can women and minorities get the loans they need to buy and operate farms? According to USDA survey data, these "socially disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers get a disproportionately small share of farm loans. More detailed information isn’t available on farm lending to these groups because lenders generally aren't allowed to record an applicant's race or sex.
Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Across Asset Classes
As the investment community in the United States, particularly within the fields of sustainable, responsible, and impact investing, shows an increasing appetite for investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems across asset classes, a subset of investors is demonstrating growing interest in financing "regenerative" agriculture.
Growing Food Connections: Aggregation, Processing, and Distribution
This brief highlights the many ways and scales at which local governments can invest in aggregation, processing, and distribution infrastructure to support local and regional food systems, from commissioning assessment studies and food hub business plans to supporting the development of facilities and infrastructure or amending policies and codes. Whether driven by the grassroots efforts of farmers, community organizations, or entrepreneurs, or by planning processes and policies, local governments have important roles to play in supporting these efforts by providing technical or policy support, funding, or land and other resources.
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.
State Farm to School Policy Handbook 2018Members only Login
The State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 is a tool for those working to advance the farm to school movement, whose core elements include local food procurement, school gardens, and food and agriculture education. The Handbook summarizes and analyzes bills and resolutions introduced between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2018, from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. It enables users to search bills by both jurisdiction and topic.
 More Food Systems Finance Resources

-Agriculture Finance Resources

Agricultural Lending: Credit to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Is Limited
Can women and minorities get the loans they need to buy and operate farms? According to USDA survey data, these "socially disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers get a disproportionately small share of farm loans. More detailed information isn’t available on farm lending to these groups because lenders generally aren't allowed to record an applicant's race or sex.
Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Across Asset Classes
As the investment community in the United States, particularly within the fields of sustainable, responsible, and impact investing, shows an increasing appetite for investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems across asset classes, a subset of investors is demonstrating growing interest in financing "regenerative" agriculture.
Growing Food Connections: Aggregation, Processing, and Distribution
This brief highlights the many ways and scales at which local governments can invest in aggregation, processing, and distribution infrastructure to support local and regional food systems, from commissioning assessment studies and food hub business plans to supporting the development of facilities and infrastructure or amending policies and codes. Whether driven by the grassroots efforts of farmers, community organizations, or entrepreneurs, or by planning processes and policies, local governments have important roles to play in supporting these efforts by providing technical or policy support, funding, or land and other resources.
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.
USDA Report on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity 2019Members only Login
On April 25, 2017, the President of the United States established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity through Executive Order 13790. The purpose and function of the Task Force was to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America.
More Agriculture Finance Resources

-Financing Programs

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

Agricultural Lending: Credit to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Is Limited
Can women and minorities get the loans they need to buy and operate farms? According to USDA survey data, these "socially disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers get a disproportionately small share of farm loans. More detailed information isn’t available on farm lending to these groups because lenders generally aren't allowed to record an applicant's race or sex.
Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Across Asset Classes
As the investment community in the United States, particularly within the fields of sustainable, responsible, and impact investing, shows an increasing appetite for investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems across asset classes, a subset of investors is demonstrating growing interest in financing "regenerative" agriculture.
Growing Food Connections: Aggregation, Processing, and Distribution
This brief highlights the many ways and scales at which local governments can invest in aggregation, processing, and distribution infrastructure to support local and regional food systems, from commissioning assessment studies and food hub business plans to supporting the development of facilities and infrastructure or amending policies and codes. Whether driven by the grassroots efforts of farmers, community organizations, or entrepreneurs, or by planning processes and policies, local governments have important roles to play in supporting these efforts by providing technical or policy support, funding, or land and other resources.
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.
USDA Report on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity 2019Members only Login
On April 25, 2017, the President of the United States established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity through Executive Order 13790. The purpose and function of the Task Force was to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America.
More Case Studies

-Headlines

-Training Courses

The Intro Food Systems Finance Webcourse examines the development finance programs that sustain a local food system and how investments in that system can drive economic development on a broader scale. Topics covered include federal, state, and local sources of capital, stakeholders involved in the financing process, and case study examples that showcase the variety of financing programs.

This course explores how bonds, tax credits, loan programs, foundation grants, and other financing tools can be used to support a local food system and encourage follow-on investment, small business development, and sustainable growth. In particular, this course addresses the financing challenges associated with growing, processing, distributing, marketing, and selling food.

-Webcasts

CDFA & OSU Webcast: Using the Successes of Energy Finance to Guide Progress in Food Systems Finance
The CDFA & OSU Webcast was a special one time offering. The webcast covered the Energy Finance Landscape and explored how its successes may be applied to the Food Systems Landscape. This webcast was run by students taking the graduate level Sustainable Financing class in the Department of City and Regional Planning at The Ohio State University.
CDFA // BNY Mellon Webcast Series: Financing Food Systems - Old Problems, New ApproachesMembers only Login
During this installment of the CDFA // BNY Mellon Development Finance Webcast Series, listen to Joe Bute of Hollymead Capital, Larry Yee of the Food Commons, and David Safer of The Bank of New York Mellon discuss food systems finance. From food hubs to experimental local food sourcing programs this webcast will tackle old problems with some new approaches.
CDFA USDA Rural Project Marketplace Information Session
As part of the CDFA & USDA Rural Finance Partnership, a Project Marketplace will be created. This informational video helps explain the partnership and marketplace.
CDFA-Stifel Webcast: Food Systems Investments Driving New MarketsMembers only Login
The third installment of the CDFA-Stifel Rural Community Development Finance Solutions Webcast Series focused on how food systems investments can be used to drive other markets, benefitting the economy of small and rural towns throughout America.
CDFA // BNY Mellon Webcast Series: The Food System - Thinking Outside of the SiloMembers only Login
During this installment of the CDFA // BNY Mellon Webcast Series, Barry Kukovich with Peoples Gas, Glenn Ford with InCity Farms and Rick Terrien with Artisan Food Networks, thought outside the silo and recognized the food system as an economic development tool by discussing innovative financing to fill the gaps of regional food systems.

-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.
View More Publications

Through a W.K. Kellogg funded research project entitled Defining the Food System Asset Class, CDFA is heavily researching the potential for DFA's to become more engaged in developing localized food systems through traditional finance approaches such as bonds, tax increment finance, tax credits, and revolving loan funds.

Want to learn more about CDFA's Defining the Food System Asset Class project?

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CDFA National Sponsors

  • Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority
  • Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
  • BNY Mellon
  • Bricker & Eckler LLP
  • Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
  • Business Oregon
  • CohnReznick
  • FBT Project Finance Advisors LLC
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Frost Brown Todd, LLC
  • Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP
  • Ice Miller LLP
  • KeyBanc Capital Markets
  • Kutak Rock LLP
  • McCarter & English, LLP
  • McGuireWoods
  • MuniCap, Inc.
  • NW Financial Group, LLC
  • SB Friedman Development Advisors
  • Stern Brothers
  • Stifel Nicolaus
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo Securities
  • Wilmington Trust
  • Z. The Bond Buyer
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