More than $90 million in competitive grants are available through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to help strengthen local and regional food systems, develop new market opportunities for producers and support farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, flowers and nursery crops. The grants 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."
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Block grant program
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 http://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp.State departments of agriculture must submit their applications to AMS by July 6, 2016.
Farmers market program
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.
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Marketing improvement program
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.
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Grant applications must be submitted electronically through www.Grants.gov.
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.
For more information about these grant programs, including program background, visit the AMS grants website: www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants.
The website also contains a link " What AMS Grant is Right for Me?" under which applicants can use a grants decision tree to determine which AMS grant fits their project best.