USDA to Launch Agricultural Innovation Centers (Will Montana make a presentation?)

The Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will hold a meeting July 31 to get public input for the design and implementation of
the new Agricultural Innovation Center Demonstration Program.

Created with the recent passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, the Agriculture Innovation Center Demonstration Program will provide farmers
with sound technical, financial, and business advice as they consider new value-added enterprises. No more than five centers will be established in the first year of the
program, and no more than 10 in the second year.

RBS is particularly interested in receiving comments on the following specific issues as they relate to agriculture innovation centers:

Focus of work by the proposed innovation centers – The relative importance of (a) technical assistance, engineering services, applied research and scale
production, (b) assistance in marketing, market development and business planning, and (c) organization, outreach and development assistance. What is the
appropriate mix of each?
Viable methods of raising the equity capital necessary for many producer-owned value-added ventures. How can assistance to agricultural producers best be
structured for this purpose?
How the innovation centers might best coordinate with existing technical assistance, business advisory, and organizational assistance providers.
How to meet the demand for value-added assistance in traditional crop and livestock value-added enterprises, as well as newer, unique niche opportunities.
The desirability of the entity having the required assistance expertise in-house versus contracting out for that expertise. And,
Suggestions for criteria for scoring and selecting proposals that accomplish innovation center objectives.

The all-day meeting will be held in Room 107-A of USDA’s Jamie Whitten Building in Washington, D.C. Those interested in making oral presentations at the meeting
should send a written request to Wendy Dotson, Office of the Deputy Administrator for Cooperative Services, Room 4016, Stop 3250, 1400 Independence Avenue SW,
Washington, D.C. 20250. Written comments will be accepted through August 6, 2002. Further information on the meeting can also be obtained from the July 11, 2002,
edition of the Federal Register at:

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