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$89 Million in Funding Available to Support Local Food Systems

March 12, 2018

Local food (fresh tomatoes) at Denver, CO farmers' market. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik.

Local produce at Denver, CO farmers’ market. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik.

Editor’s Note: USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is hosting two webinars to help prospective applicants better understand the application process and requirements. The first webinar is on Tuesday March 27 at 2 p.m. ET and will cover how to use Grants.gov. The second webinar will be held the following day, March 28 at 2 p.m. ET and will focus specifically on the FMLFPP application process.

Interest in the “farm to fork pipeline” has been steadily growing over the last decade, among both consumers and producers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a series of grant opportunities – which can be used for many purposes, including developing and growing farmers markets, supporting specialty crop growers, and strengthening good food distribution systems – to support the growth of this sector.

On March 7, 2018, USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) announced the availability of nearly $89 million in funding for grant proposals made through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP).

AMS will provide roughly $27 million for FMFLPP, $1 million for FSMIP, and over $72 million for SCBGP.

Click here for more information about these funding opportunities and other resources available through AMS. Deadlines and details vary by program and are outlined below.

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program

FMLFPP provides grants on a competitive basis for a wide spectrum of direct-to-consumer and local food marketing projects. FMLFPP and its predecessor program, the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), are programs that the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has championed for over a decade. FMLFPP is administered as two subprograms: FMPP and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). The FMPP subprogram supports projects that have more of a direct farmer-to-consumer focus, such as: farmers markets, CSA (community supported agriculture) programs, roadside stands, pick-your own operations, and agritourism. In contrast, LFPP’s focus is on the farm to fork pipeline. 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.

Applications for both FMPP and LFPP must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 7, 2018.

Applicants may submit project proposals for both FMPP and LFPP. If selected for both awards, applicants may accept one FMPP and one LFPP award under the FY 2018 Request for Applications (RFA).

Farmers Market Promotion Program

FMPP offers two distinct types of grants: Capacity Building and Community Development, and Training and Technical Assistance Projects. For Capacity Building projects, the minimum award is $50,000 and the maximum award is $250,000. For Community Development, Training and Technical Assistance projects, the minimum grant award is $250,000 and maximum award level is $500,000. There is no matching requirement for the FMPP subprogram.

The award period duration for both FMPP Capacity Building projects and Community Development, Training and Technical Assistance projects is 36 months, and projects are expected to begin on September 30, 2018 and be completed by September 29, 2021. The FY 2018 RFA for FMPP can be found here and more information about the program as a whole can be found here.

Local Food Promotion Program

LFPP offers Planning Grants ($25,000 minimum; $100,000 maximum) and Implementation Grants ($100,000 minimum; $500,000 maximum). Unlike FMPP, LFPP does require a 25 percent cash or in-kind match.

Planning projects grants are for up to 18 months, and are expected to begin on September 30, 2018 and be completed by March 2020. Implementation project grants can be awarded for up to 36 months, and are expected to begin on September 30, 2018 and be completed by September 29, 2021.

The FY 2018 RFA for LFPP can be found here, and additional information about the program can be found here.

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, FMPP received 457 applications, but only had enough resources to fund 52 (11 percent) of the projects; LFPP received 365 applications and was also able to fund only 52 (14 percent) projects. The interest in the local/regional food system is booming, but without the proper resources, we will be unable to bring this part of our agriculture industry to scale. This is why NSAC is committed to fighting for expanded support for farm-to-fork pipeline programs in both the upcoming farm bill and in the FY 2019 appropriations process. To see examples of projects funded in FY 2017, click here.

Changes to FMLFPP in FY 2018

As part of every FMLFPP grant cycle, AMS asks for stakeholder feedback so that they can continue 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. This year, no major changes were made to the RFA or to the application process. However, some minor changes were included to further clarify and refine guidance around application submission.

FMLFPP and the Farm Bill

FMLFPP is a farm bill authorized and funded program. What this means in practice is that the program depends on direct action from Congress via the farm bill in order to continue receiving the funds it needs to operate – without which, the program will be left stranded and unable to continue building the farm-to-fork pipeline.

With the current farm bill set to expire on September 30, 2018, the future of FMLFPP and many other innovative sustainable agriculture programs hangs in the balance. In order to protect family farmers and the good food pipeline, it is critical for both program users and supporters to let their members of Congress know that they want to see more support for good food systems in the next Farm Bill. To learn more about what is at stake for farm bill authorized and funded programs click here.

One of the best ways to protect programs like FMLFPP is to create a new, expanded local/regional food program with permanent farm bill funding. This is one of the goals of the Local FARMS Act, a comprehensive marker bill that will support the continued expansion of new market opportunities for American family farmers if included in the upcoming farm bill. To support FMLFPP and the farm-to-fork pipeline, ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor the Local FARMS Act (S. 1947 / H.R. 3941) by clicking here.

Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program

FSMIP provides roughly $1 million in competitive funds to state departments of agriculture, state colleges and universities, and other appropriate state agencies to assist states with exploring new market opportunities through research and innovation. While only state agencies and institutions are eligible for grant awards, FSMIP funds can be used to conduct research projects in collaboration with non-profit organizations, community, or producer groups that solve practical marketing problems, including those facing small and medium-scale farmers.

FSMIP applications are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on May 7, 2018. Learn more about how to apply for FSMIP here.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

SCBGP supports our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers by providing grants to state departments of agriculture to support projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. SCBGP funds can support a wide array of projects such as value-added processing businesses, food hub development, farmer food safety training, and farm to school initiatives.

All state-run block grant program project proposals must be submitted to the state or territory in which the project will be located. States are now applying for their state allocations, which means that groups should start (if you have not already) making inquiries about when your state will start accepting applications ASAP.

Categories: Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Marketing and Labeling, Nutrition & Food Access

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