USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack joined farmers Monday at the Virginia State Fair to announce $52 million in support of the organic industry and local and regional food systems, with most of the funding authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Farm Bill authorizations include funding for the Agricultural Marketing Service's Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Foods Promotion Program, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Organic Research and Extension Initiative and Community Food Projects grant program.
Also announced today are grants from AMS's Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe joined Vilsack in the announcement. M. James Faison, a Virginia farmer and business owner of Milton's Local Harvest, was awarded a Local Food Promotion Program grant.
Milton's Local Harvest will develop aggregation and wholesale distribution channels for farmers producing local swine and cattle products in Virginia and the District of Columbia. USDA expects the project to improve the commercial viability of small- to medium-scale farmers.
"Local and regional food systems are one of the pillars of our efforts to revitalize rural economies," Vilsack said. "Consumers are increasingly demanding more local and organic options. Investing in local and regional food systems supports the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, especially smaller operations, while strengthening economies in communities across the country.
Local Foods Promotion Program
Grants announced Monday are also aimed at improving food availability. One program, awarded $27 million in competitive grants by AMS, will expand marketing through the new Local Food Marketing Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program.
LFPP will invest millions annually in marketing and promotion activities for local food enterprises including food hubs, aggregation businesses, local food processors, farm to institution activities and other similar efforts. FMPP makes annual investments in marketing and promotion activities for farmers markets, CSAs and other direct producer-to-consumer outlets for local food.
"These Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grants provide farmers and ranchers around the country with tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities, and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food," said AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo.
Organic Research and Extension Initiative
Through the Organic Research and Extension Initiative, USDA is awarding more than $19 million in grants to help producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards grow and market high-quality organic agricultural products.
OREI's priority concerns include biological, physical and social sciences. Organic Research and Extension Initiative-funded projects assist farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning by delivering practical research-based information and will improve the ability of growers to develop the Organic System Plan required for certification.
For fiscal year 2014, special emphasis was given to research, education and extension relating to management of diseases, insect pests and weeds in specific regions.
Community Food Projects
Community Food Projects addresses a serious local issue, which is basic food access for low-income families and individuals. CFP projects bring together a wide range of food system experts to share their knowledge, skills and resources to develop innovative solutions to the nation's food and hunger problems. USDA is awarding $4.8 million in CFP funding to 22 projects in 16 states.
AMS is also awarding more than $1 million in matching FSMIP grants to state departments of agriculture and state colleges and universities. Funds support research projects to address challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally. FSMIP grants are funding 17 projects in 13 States.