The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that more than $90 million in grants are available to bolster local and regional food systems, provide support to food-producing farmers, and encourage new market opportunities.
"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 in a USDA press release. "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."
Specialty crop sales exceed $83 billion per year, according to the USDA.
The largest chunk of funding, $62 million, is allocated to US states and territories for research on specialty crops and efforts to increase demand through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
More than $26 million will be divided between the Farmers Market Promotion Program, supporting producer-to-consumer marketing programs, like farmer's markets and agritourism, and the Local Food Promotion Program, which funds projects that develop and expand local and regional food business intermediary supply chains.
$1 million in matching funds from the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) will go to state departments of agriculture, state colleges and universities, and other state-level agencies toward research that looks at challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing US agricultural products domestically and abroad.
For more information about these grant programs, including program background, visit the AMS grants website:www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants.