USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more that $56 million in grants available to local, regional food systems, farmers markets, and organic research. Vilsack also announced $48.1 million in funding will be available fiscal year 2017 through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to support systems-based research and extension activities in specialty crops. The announcements were made at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference.
The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill to invest in long-term solutions that address problems in the overlapping systems of production, distribution and processing, and consumers and markets.
“The Specialty Crop Research Initiative offers strategic investments to help bring specialty crops to market,” said National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA ) Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “By using this approach, we encourage stakeholders to work together to address problem-solving in a comprehensive way that leads to sustainable, positive outcomes and impacts.”
Eligible crops are defined in the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act, reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
“Since this Administration launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative in 2009 to coordinate USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems, there has been a dramatic increase in consumer demand for buying local,” Vilsack said. “Over the years, we’ve seen how these new market opportunities are helping to drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship in rural communities, and expand food access and choice. This latest round of grants will expand the capacity of farmers and businesses to serve this growing market, help revitalize local economies around the country, and support efforts around the country to provide fresh, healthy food to all Americans.”
The Food for Tomorrow conference brings together a range of leaders to discuss important issues and trends affecting how we feed our nation and the world. At the event, Vilsack made three significant funding announcements.
- $26 million in Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grants for more than 100 projects that will support rural economies, increase market opportunities for farmers, and help close supply chain gaps in communities across the country. These competitive grants are divided equally between the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) and are administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which works to improve market opportunities for U.S. growers and producers.
- $21.4 million for Organic Research and Extension Program grants for 26 projects to help organic farmers and ranchers improve business operations and bring more organic food to the table of consumers. The grants are funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG), two programs administered by USDA’s NIFA.
- $8.6 Million in Community Food Projects grants to 33 projects that help make healthy, nutritious foods available to people from low-income neighborhoods. The grants, offered through NIFA’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP), support projects that foster self-sustaining solutions to food security in at-risk communities. Recent analysis shows the U.S. is making tremendous headway in battling hunger and food insecurity across America, decreasing food insecurity through healthy diets and nutrition education.