Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $56 million in grants to strengthen local and regional food systems, support farmers markets and fund organic research. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $1 billion in more than 40,000 local food businesses and infrastructure projects.
"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," said Vilsack. "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 New York Times Food for Tomorrow conference, where Vilsack made the announcement, brings together a range of leaders to discuss important issues and trends affecting food.
At the event, Vilsack made three funding announcements:
- $26 million in Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grants for more than 100 projects. 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 National Institute of Food and Agriculture (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 are offered through NIFA's Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP).
In conjunction with the funding announcements, Vilsack announced $48.1 million in available fiscal year 2017 funding through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to support systems-based research and extension activities that accelerate science-based solutions and new technology for the specialty crop industry. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. 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.