USDA has announced the availability of more than $90 million in competitive grants to help strengthen local and regional food systems, develop new market opportunities for producers, and support farmers growing 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. A listing of the SCBGP’s state contacts, and how to apply with state application due dates, can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp. State departments of agriculture must submit their applications to AMS by July 6, 2016.
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.
Applicants should start the Grants.gov registration process as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline. Applications for FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP are due by 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time) on May 12, 2016.
Grant writing workshops will be held through the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance (AMSTA) Project. Please visit www.amsta.net to see if training is scheduled in your area.