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$90 million for local food systems, specialty crop producers

Staff writer |
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of more than $90 million in competitive grants to help strengthen local and regional food systems.

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The program is to develop new market opportunities for producers, and support farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, flowers and nursery crops (known collectively as specialty crops).

These grants programs are administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and include the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, and the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program.

"Over the past seven years, USDA has strengthened local and regional food systems by investing in projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities for small businesses and increase access to healthy foods," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"These grant programs make a real difference to farmers, ranchers, and businesses in communities across the country, revitalizing rural economies while also increasing access to fresh, healthy food."

More than $62 million is allocated in grants to U.S. states and territories through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for projects supporting specialty crop growers through research and programs to increase demand.

Interested applicants should apply directly through their state departments of agriculture, which administer a competitive grant process.

The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program provides a combined total of more than $26 million in competitive grants, divided equally between the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP).

FMPP grants support direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.

LFPP funding goes to projects that develop, improve, and expand local and regional food business intermediary supply chain activities, including processing, distribution, aggregation, and storage of locally- or regionally-produced food products.

The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) provides nearly $1 million in matching funds to state departments of agriculture, state colleges and universities, and other appropriate state agencies for research projects that address challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.

USDA data show that specialty crop sales exceed $83 billion per year. Since 2009, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has supported these growers by investing nearly $393 million into more than 5,400 projects.

USDA's investments in farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer local food marketing activities through FMPP have provided $60 million in assistance for over 900 projects nationwide since 2009. LFPP has funded over 350 projects totaling nearly $25 million since it launched in 2014.


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