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Burger King reaches for rural presence

Burger King Corp. will look for suppliers and open new restaurants in rural America under an agreement signed Monday with the Agriculture Department.

Under the agreement, the department's Rural Business-Cooperative Service will consider guaranteeing development loans for would-be suppliers and franchise holders. Guarantees would come from a program with $700-million available this year.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman called the agreement an example of public-private partnerships sought by the administration. Burger King said the agreement will help the expanding fast-food chain locate suppliers closer to its restaurants.

Among potential suppliers are Diversity Food Processing, a new black-owned meat company in Petersburg, Va.

Miami-based Burger King, owned by Grand Metropolitan PLC, bought $2.3-billion worth of food, equipment and supplies last year through Restaurant Services Inc., Burger King's purchasing arm.

Under the agreement announced Monday, Restaurant Services also will work with Second Harvest, a Chicago-based food bank network, to find products that can be given to food banks and other charities in rural America.