USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced $35 million in grants that will support local and regional food systems and farmers markets.
More local food is being purchased every year. Since Vilsack began as Secretary, it has reached nearly $12 billion and the number of farmers markets has moved to more than 8,500 from 5,274 in 2009.
USDA says efforts of the Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service improve selling opportunities for small and mid-size producers and have benefited the health of all Americans.
"USDA is helping to create economic opportunities for producers, increase access to fresh, healthy food for consumers, and connect rural and urban communities across the country," Vilsack said.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service is awarding $13.3 million in Farmers Market Promotion Program grants to 164 marketing and promotion projects involved with farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and other direct-to-consumer outlets for local food.
Since 2009, this program has funded 902 projects totaling over $59.2 million to support direct marketing efforts for local food, Vilsack said.
AMS is also awarding $11.9 million in Local Food Promotion Program grants to 160 marketing and promotion projects for intermediary local food enterprises such as food hubs, aggregation businesses, local food processors, and farm-to-institution activities.
This program, begun in 2014, has funded 351 projects totaling $24.6 million to support local/regional supply chain activities including processing, aggregating, storing or distributing local and regional food.
AMS also is awarding $1 million in matching-grant funds through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program. These funds are awarded through State departments of agriculture and other agencies, as well as State colleges and universities.
The matching funds will support 15 research projects to find solutions to challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally. Since 2009, this program has funded 142 projects totaling $8.6 million to explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products.
Both the Farmers Market and the Local Food Promotion Programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill.