LITTLE FALLS (WJON News) - Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture were in Little Falls Monday to announce the North Central Plains USDA Regional Food Business Center.

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The center will help develop agriculture and food businesses across Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Jenny Lester Moffitt is the USDA Under-Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. She says the center will help develop new markets for farmers and ranchers.

Our goal with regional food business centers is manyfold. (The work is) really about bolstering local economies, and building more new and better markets for producers. They have a diverse and resilient food supply chain that they can sell into. It's about diversity and making sure that different organizations have access to USDA programs that have access to the same markets that others have always been able to enjoy.

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen says the new centers will help new farmers get questions answered as they grow their operation.

I can tell you things are changing in Minnesota, I can see it with my own eyes, and it's exciting to see what's happening. But when we travel, we can see that there are questions and there are things that our farmers need. What this type of program is going to do is it's going to result in more opportunities for our farmers, which is going to result in more farmers. (It’s) very exciting to see, you know, our food system diversify, to bring fresh, healthy foods to our areas.

Officials say, through the North Plains Center, more than $15 million in economic assistance will be distributed to small businesses and technical service providers. The specific details and location of the center are still being developed.

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