As part of our 2018 Farm Bill efforts, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) sought to strengthen programs and policies that support the growth of local food economies and support direct market opportunities for family farmers. One of the most significant achievements of those efforts was the development of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which combines and strengthens two longstanding pillars of support for local food entrepreneurs: the Farmers Market and Local Food Production Program (FMLFPP) and the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG).
With this new umbrella program structure now in place, farmers and food businesses need to know what to expect when applying for FMLFPP and/or VAPG grants. Thus far, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has only released fiscal year (FY) 2019 grant information for FMLFPP; important updates and changes from last year’s request-for-applications (RFA) are detailed in this post.
On April 18, 2019, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the availability of $23 million in funding for FMLFPP, which is administered as two subprograms: The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). Both programs provide grants on a competitive basis for a wide spectrum of direct-to consumer and local food marketing projects.
The deadline this year for both grants is June 18, 2019 and must be submitted electronically through grants.gov.
Farmers Market Promotion Program
FMPP supports projects that have a direct farmer-to-consumer focus, such as: farmers markets, CSA (i.e. community supported agriculture) programs, roadside farm stands, pick-your own operations, and agritourism.
FMPP will continue to offer two distinct types of grants: 1) Capacity Building and 2) Community Development, Training and Technical Assistance Projects. There are no changes to the maximum and minimum awards size from last year. For Capacity Building (CB) projects, the minimum award is $50,000 and the maximum award is $250,000. For Community Development, Training and Technical Assistance (CTA) projects, the minimum grant award is $250,000 and maximum award level is $500,000.
The program now requires a 25 percent cash or in-kind match (further details below).
The maximum duration for both FMPP CB projects and CTA projects is 36 months; projects are expected to begin on September 30, 2019 and be completed by September 29, 2022. The FY 2019 RFA for FMPP can be found here, general information about FMPP can be found here.
Local Food Promotion Program
LFPP seeks to develop and expand local and regional food business enterprises to increase access to locally produced foods and develop new market opportunities for local producers. LFPP supports projects including, but not limited to: processing, distribution, aggregation, and storage and marketing of locally or regionally produced food products sold through intermediated marketing channels.
LFPP will continue to offer two types of grants: 1) Planning Grants and 2) Implementation Grants. There are no changes to the maximum and minimum awards size from last year. Planning Grants provides a minimum award of $25,000 and a maximum of $100,000. Implementation Grants have a minimum award of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000. The program also requires a 25 percent cash or in-kind match.
Planning projects grants have an award period of up to 18 months and are expected to begin on September 30, 2019 and be completed by March 31, 2021. Implementation project grants can be awarded for up to 36 months and are expected to begin on September 30, 2019 and be completed by September 29, 2022. The FY 2019 RFA for LFPP can be found here, and additional information about the program can be found here.
Changes to the FMLFPP Application for FY 2019
As part of every FMLFPP grant cycle, AMS asks for stakeholder feedback to improve the RFA and better meet the needs of future applicants. As part of that process, NSAC regularly submits recommendations developed from discussions with our member organizations and their networks. Some of our recommendations for LAMP and its subprograms were included in this year’s RFAs (see below).
Additionally, there were many changes to FMLFPP included in the new farm bill. These include:
- Previously, only LFPP had a match requirement. Due to changes in the farm bill, this year both FMPP and LFPP grants will require a 25 percent match of cash and/or in-kind resources to the total of federal funds awarded. Every applicant must secure the matching contributions by the time the proposal is submitted and provide signed letters verifying the matching funds from each resource.
- Food Policy Councils, entities that represent food organizations or local, tribal, or state governments, now qualify as eligible entities for both grants.
- As directed in the farm bill, applicants to either grant may now use up to $6,500 of the amount requested in their application for upgrades to equipment to improve food safety. Increasing funding for food safety training and technical assistance was an issue NSAC fought hard for during the debate over the 2018 Farm Bill.
- Each program will maintain the historical funding priority on projects that benefit communities located in areas of concentrated poverty. However, this priority is now expanded to target communities with limited access to supermarkets or locally or regionally grown food. This is an issue NSAC worked closely on as well during the farm bill debate.
Peer Review Panels
Every year, USDA seeks members of the public to serve on their grant peer review panels. The peer review panels help USDA review grant applications and recommend which projects should receive funding. Grant reviewers, typically people with academic, non-profit, and/or on the ground agriculture-related experience, help to ensure that the projects funded advance the goals of the program. If you are interested in being part of this process and bringing sustainable agriculture to the reviewers’ table, please consider volunteering for a FMLFPP peer review panel. AMS has launched a new peer reviewer application portal, which can be found here.
In order to meet the steadily increasing demand for locally and regionally produced food, farmers need targeted resources to help them bring their operations to scale. In FY 2018, FMPP received 320 applications, but only had enough resources to fund 49 (15 percent) of the projects. LFPP received 276 applications and similarly was only able to fund 51 (16 percent) projects.
Compared to FY 2018, this year FMLFPP saw a decrease in funding from $26.8 million to $23 million available for grant funding. NSAC knows the value of this growing industry – both for farmers and for consumers – and is fighting for expanded FMLFPP funding to support farm-to-fork pipeline programs in the FY 2020 appropriations package.
In FY 2020, debate around which has already begun, NSAC requests appropriators provide an additional $20 million in discretionary funding for LAMP grant funding, which would be split 50/50 between FMLFPP and VAPG. If secured, this would provide an additional $10 million for FMLFPP and restore funding that is in high demand. With the farm economy stuck in a prolonged downturn – increased investments in domestic markets and valued added agriculture is needed now more than ever.