USDA Announces $35 Million in Grant Funding for Local Foods

USDA Announces $35 Million in Grant Funding for Local Foods
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October 7, 2015

As the fall harvest begins, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced about $35 million in new funding through four grant programs to support local and regional food systems, including farmers markets.

The grand funding targets farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which has increased rapidly since 2009. Funding will be used for marketing and promotional campaigns, and expanding the use of food assistance benefits to buy fresh local produce. Additionally, funding will also be used to support the local and regional supply chain.

The grants are administered by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and Food Nutrition Service.

About $13.3 million in Farmers Market Promotion Program grants was awarded to about 165 projects involved with farmers markets, CSAs and other direct-to-consumer outlets for local food. About $11.9 million in Local Food Promotion Program grants has been awarded to 160 marketing and promotion projects to local food enterprises.

On a somewhat larger scale, about $1 million in matching-grant funding is being made to state departments of agriculture, and state colleges and universities for 15 research projects focused on the challenges of marketing, transporting and distribution of US-grown foods domestically and internationally.

In many places, those receiving food assistance live in areas known as food deserts and do not have easy access to fresh produce. Between 2009 and 2014 Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) redemptions at farmers markets increased 350 percent. About $8.1 million in grants have been awarded for projects in 23 states to enhance the effectiveness of using SNAP benefits at farmers markets. The funding will be used for staff training, technical assistance, creating educational materials, and raising awareness.

The news of the grants come as North Carolina farmers begin to assess the damage from nearly two weeks of rain. One peanut farmer interviewed by several media outlets said he's expecting to lose 70 to 80 percent of his crop.

North Carolina isn't the only state harmed by too much rain. News outlets are also reporting a possible pumpkin shortage as Illinois saw a wet June, which washed away a large portion of its potential fall harvest. About 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the U.S. come from Illinois.