Under Secretary Greg Ibach announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $102.7 million to increase opportunities for farmers, ranchers and other growers across the country through five grant programs. The funding supports a variety of locally-led projects intended to expand markets for local food promotion and specialty crops.
"Every state has agricultural priorities that contribute to the well-being of farm families, consumers and the economic health of rural America," said Ibach. "These programs target resources to the state, local and regional level where the people who understand the issues best can find solutions that help everyone."
The resources announced today are administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and include:
• $72.15 million is directed to state departments of agriculture in 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to support farmers growing specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. States use the SCBGP to fund research, agricultural extension activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods of value to farmers in the state or territory.
In Tennessee, the FY 2014 SCBGP enabled 14 projects selected by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to prepare a manual for Christmas tree farmers; look at ways to help field-grown nurseries respond to fire ants; improve Northeast Tennessee buyer-producer networks; and examine ways to increase sales and income for Tennessee's specialty crop producers.
• $13.35 million is directed to 49 projects supporting direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agri-tourism through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP).
A 2015 FMPP grant enabled the farmers market in Burkesville, Ky., located in Cumberland County with a total county population of 7,000, to expand the number of vendors at its market from 8 registered vendors in 2015 to a roster of 38 vendors in 2017.
• $13.45 million is directed to 44 projects to support the development and expansion of local and regional food businesses to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets through the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP).
--A 2016 LFPP grant helped the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma conduct a feasibility study to research ways to strengthen and expand the food system for tribal members, families, and communities.
• $2.67 million is awarded to six projects through the Acer Access and Development Program (Acer). This funding supports the efforts of states, tribal governments and research institutions to increase market opportunities for the domestic maple syrup industry. The first Acer grants, totaling $900,000, were awarded in FY 2017.
The maple industry is using several new practices and equipment improvements to increase sap yield. The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College is researching ways to identify new maple tapping practices to increase and maintain yields and production given changing seasonal conditions.
• $1.1 million is awarded for nine projects through the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.
--Spotted winged drosophila (SWD) is an invasive fruit fly that lays eggs in ripening fruit just prior to harvest. As a result, growers often increase insecticide applications near harvest or accept increased loss of product in response to the damage caused by this pest. A 2014 FSMIP grant to Iowa State University of Science and Technology led to the development and publication in 2016 of a free guide for growers, Managing Spotted Winged Drosophila in Commercial Fruit Production.
USDA supports local and regional food systems and increases consumer access to fresh, healthy foods through applied research, technical services and Congressionally-funded grants administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).