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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 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.

-Understanding Food Systems Finance

Interested in learning more about financing food systems? This section contains resources on understanding the basics development finance tools for food systems.

Learn More About Food Systems Finance

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...
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...
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...
CDFA Food Finance White Paper Series: Food Systems & Targeted Tools
Researched 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,...

-Food Systems Finance Resources

Equitable Food-Oriented Development
Equitable Food Oriented Development (EFOD) is a framework, and growing movement, to reap the powerful benefits of food projects and enterprises as vehicles for community development and health, while investing deeply in the self-determination and leadership of community residents.
Designing a Renewable Food SystemMembers only Login
Other systems, including our energy, water, and transportation systems, also fell in line with that ethos; but unlike the food system, these sectors are undertaking 21st-century upgrades that comport better with our modern norms and realities by creating more decentralized systems that are better adapted to local geography and sociology.
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.
Regional Trends in New England Farm to Institution Procurement PolicyMembers only Login
Local food procurement in New England institutions has the potential to improve the health of citizens, support the New England agricultural economy and other area businesses, and reduce the environmental impact of transporting food to New England from elsewhere in the country or world.
Shared Kitchen ToolkitMembers only Login
This Toolkit is intended for everyone from kitchen entrepreneurs to startup nonprofits, from economic development agencies to producer networks, from food system groups to real estate developers. We hope this Toolkit also provides helpful guidance to existing food businesses and community kitchens (churches, community centers, schools and food access program kitchens) who seek to share their commercial kitchen space with entrepreneurs and food programs as an ancillary use.
 More Food Systems Finance Resources

-Agriculture Finance Resources

An Overview of Beginning Farms and FarmersMembers only Login
This report uses information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS, 2013 to 2017) to describe the structural and economic characteristics of beginning farms and illustrate how they differ from more established operations.
Tax-Exempt Bond Financing for Beginning and Low-Equity Farmers: The Case of Aggie BondsMembers only Login
Established in the 1980s, the ‘‘Aggie Bond’’ program provides beginning and low-equity farmers with access to capital. The bonds, which pay tax-exempt interest, may be used by qualifying famers for purchases of farm real estate and equipment. The authors use 25 years of data to examine whether the Aggie Bond program has had an impact on farm entrance, land ownership, and the size of operation.
Innovative State-Led Efforts to Finance Agricultural ConservationMembers only Login
U.S. farmers are currently facing the most difficult agricultural economy since the 1980s. At the same time, many states are wrestling with the necessity of addressing environmental challenges. This report expounds upon the excellent work states are doing regarding conservation tax credits, cover crop incentives and environmental certifications to increase conservation across the landscape. The report also highlights how these programs work for agricultural producers and states.
Designing a Renewable Food SystemMembers only Login
Other systems, including our energy, water, and transportation systems, also fell in line with that ethos; but unlike the food system, these sectors are undertaking 21st-century upgrades that comport better with our modern norms and realities by creating more decentralized systems that are better adapted to local geography and sociology.
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.
More Agriculture Finance 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

CDBG Partnership Challenges and Opportunities at the Local, State, and Federal LevelsMembers only Login
HUD issued this report in October 2019 to identify opportunities and challenges for Federal, State, and local governments to partner with nonprofit organizations to complete community development, revitalization, and rehabilitation projects using the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
Innovative State-Led Efforts to Finance Agricultural ConservationMembers only Login
U.S. farmers are currently facing the most difficult agricultural economy since the 1980s. At the same time, many states are wrestling with the necessity of addressing environmental challenges. This report expounds upon the excellent work states are doing regarding conservation tax credits, cover crop incentives and environmental certifications to increase conservation across the landscape. The report also highlights how these programs work for agricultural producers and states.
Early Lessons from the Food Commons: A New Economic Whole System Approach for Regional FoodMembers only Login
Food Commons Fresno is operationalizing the model with wholesale, food box, hub, commissary, and farming businesses managed through a linked for-benefit corporation and a community trust. The lessons from TFC suggest the need for rapid development of true regenerative capital, deepened networks, and collaborations with similar whole-system, place-based models and communities of practice across sectors.
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.
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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-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.

View All Courses

-Webcasts

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.
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 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
  • Petros PACE Finance
  • SB Friedman Development Advisors
  • Stern Brothers
  • Stifel Nicolaus
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo Securities
  • Wilmington Trust
  • Z. The Bond Buyer
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