Harvesting Local Food Opportunities
October 11, 2017
Feds Feed Families National Program Manager Betty-Ann Bryce joins USDA Rural Development’s Mark Stout at Miller Farms to pick tomatoes and squash. Photo credit: USDA, Preston Keres.
For family farmers, fall is one of the busiest times of the year. While farmers are keeping busy harvesting their fields, food and farm advocates have been occupied with their own bumper crop of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program announcements. In fact, in the past two weeks, USDA awarded approximately $40 million in grants to support the development of local and regional food economies and community based solutions to food insecurity. Of the $40 million, $28 million was awarded through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), over $7 million through Community Food Project grants (CFP) and just under $5 million through the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP).
Also during this period, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced a new bill – the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (“Local FARMS Act”) – to help family farmers better connect with new and growing markets while increasing access to healthy food. The Local FARMS Act builds upon many of the successful investments that USDA has made in local and regional food system development.
Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP)
FMLFPP is a competitive grants program that is divided into two sub-programs: 1) the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and 2) the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). This fall’s awards supported 52 FMPP projects at $13.4 million and 51 LFPP awards at roughly $13.4 million.
The FMPP subprogram supports projects that directly connect producers to consumers, such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, roadside stands, pick-your own operations and agri-tourism. In contrast, LFPP grants can be used for processing, distribution, aggregation, storage, and marketing of locally or regionally produced food products sold through intermediated marketing channels.
This year, three NSAC member organizations received FMPP grants:
- Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers received roughly $500,000 to help local producers access the necessary information and resources to meet regulatory standards, adopt best practices, and expand market opportunities in Florida farmers’ markets. By increasing access to technical assistance, training opportunities, and information resources, this project will advance food safety compliance and increase business opportunities for Florida producers.
- Center for Rural Affairs received nearly $250,000 to develop and support farm-to-institution sourcing in the Omaha and Santee Sioux communities. The intent of the project is to better connect tribal producers to institutional purchasers so that they can create sustainable and mutually beneficial sourcing relationships.
- National Young Farmers Coalition, in collaboration with Evolving Media Network, received $250,000 to build new software and online tools for farmers. The proposed software application will allow farmers engaged in direct marketing to better meet their most critical business needs, and effectively manage sales and customer communications across multiple outlets. This project will also provide educational materials to farmers to improve their understanding of online direct marketing strategies. The software application will be maintained beyond the grant period by establishing a cooperative farmer-owned business.
A list of all FY 2017 FMPP awards can be found here.
The following four NSAC members received LFPP grants:
- Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) received $45,000 to conduct a study to identify and assemble the resources and connections needed to develop institutional markets for local and regional farmers. The award will help MCE hire a new staff person to conduct outreach to area institutions about local food purchasing and identify the types of resources and infrastructure needed to do so.
- La Montañita Co-op received $500,000 to develop a holistic approach to production planning, quality assurance, and technical assistance. This project will increase sales for existing value chains, and address the needs for potential and nascent value chains. This project will also leverage partnerships between agricultural businesses, an operational food hub, food safety professionals, and wholesale buyers in New Mexico.
- Common Market Philadelphia received $500,000 to leverage its existing food hub infrastructure – including their Philadelphia warehouse and truck fleet – to better connect the New York and DC metro area food systems. The project will focus on institutional and wholesale markets with at least 65 farmers, small processors, cooperatives, and other producers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Delaware, and Virginia. By extending their procurement and sales relationships across the Mid-Atlantic, Common Market seeks to increase the availability of seasonal produce and leverage the buying power of large-volume customers to support regional farms.
- Sustainable Food Center received $500,000 to lead a collaboration between the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability and Austin Public Health, Texas Center for Local Food, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Farmshare Austin. The goal of the project is to gather stakeholders across central Texas and determine the viability of developing a food hub for local food aggregation, minimal processing, storage, and distribution to existing and expanded intermediated markets serving the greater Austin area
A list of all FY17 LFPP awards can be found here.
Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP)
FSOP funds food safety outreach, education, training, and technical assistance projects that directly assist small and mid-sized farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small-scale wholesalers. FSOP’s focus is to ensure that trainings are tailored to the diverse needs of these businesses and the production systems they use, particularly sustainable production systems, including organic and conservation practices.
The following three NSAC members received FSOP awards:
- Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) received $165,000 to support and expand their Local Produce Safety Initiative. This project will allow CFSA to broaden the scope of their program in order to provide 300 producers with food safety education. CFSA will use this grant to develop a farm level food safety plan, modify existing training materials to ensure they are consistent with FSMA guidelines, and provide access to a cloud based community platform that increases communication and document sharing between suppliers and buyers.
- Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development received $165,000 to support their ongoing efforts to improve market access for limited-resource, African-American grower cooperatives throughout the Mississippi Delta. This project will also support the Wallace Center’s efforts to support the development of the regional food hub sector.
- California Certified Organic Farmers received $120,000 to support long-term efforts to create a culture of informed food-safety decision-making, consistent compliance, and engender a more complete understanding of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule amongst small, organic, and Spanish-only farm communities in California.
A list of all FSOP FY17 awards can be found here.
Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program (CFP)
CFP awards grants to eligible nonprofits, tribal organizations, and food program service providers to promote self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities. Projects can vary in scope, ranging from community gardens with market stands to consumer cooperatives. The program offers both planning and implementation grants.
The following two NSAC members received awards:
- Center for Rural Affairs received $35,000 to support efforts to expand involvement in the statewide Nebraska Food Policy Council. The Center helped to start the Food Policy Council in 2015. This project will support their efforts to ensure the Council has broad representation across income levels, geographic origin, food system sector, and ethnicity.
- LiveWell Colorado received $130,000 to expand their Community Food Advocate Program. The program will draw on the Community Health Worker model, where SNAP clientele act as community-based advocates and informants for LiveWell Colorado’s Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. Advocates will foster stronger connections between low-income communities and current and new food retailers, and help to increase DUFB participation and the purchase of local produce.
A list of all CFP awards including FY17 can be found here.
The Local FARMS Act
On October 4, 2017, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Sean Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (“Local FARMS Act”), which aims to improve, streamline, and expand many of the local and regional food system development programs administered by USDA. NSAC strongly supports this bill and applauds these congressional champions for fighting to increase economic development in rural communities nationwide. Among other provisions, the Act provides mandatory farm bill funding for FSOP and increases funding for FMLFPP as part of a new, coordinated program.
Farmers and farmer advocacy organizations were quick to praise the Local FARMS Act following its introduction. NSAC Policy Specialist Wes King summarized the benefits of the bill, saying:
“The Local FARMS Act is a priority for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition because it recognizes the vast, untapped potential in our farming and food producing communities and offers ways to transform that potential into economic prosperity. As others have rightly noted, the farm bill is not just an ‘agriculture bill,’ it’s a jobs bill too. The Local FARMS Act means opportunity for our family farmers, as well as increased access to fresh, healthy foods for American families.”
Illinois farmer and board president of Illinois Stewardship Alliance Andy Heck underscored what the bill would mean to American family farmers:
“Times are tight right now, a farmer has to be a jack of all trades to get by,” said Heck, Owner and Operator of Heck’s Harvest in Springfield, Illinois. “You’ve got to not only grow the best food, but also have a smart business plan, savvy marketing, the right training. We’re not looking for a handout, we’re looking for a hand up – and that’s what the Local FARMS Act does. This bill gives us an opportunity to reach new markets so that we can make a decent living and keep our farms in business.”
The goals of the Local FARMS Act are to:
- Support the continued expansion of new market opportunities for American family farmers through outreach, cost-share, and technical assistance programs;
- Increase access to fresh, healthy, local food among low-income groups and communities in need; and
- Develop new and strengthening existing infrastructure that connects producers to consumers.
To learn more about the Local FARMS act, click here. If you are part of a food or farm organization, you can show your support by signing up your organization to officially endorse the Local FARMS act here. Sign-on opportunities for individuals will be made available on the NSAC website shortly.
Farm Bill, Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Marketing and Labeling