May 8, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Eugene Kim, Greg Fogel, or Ferd Hoefner – 202-547-5754
May 8, 2014, Washington, DC – Today, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced changes to two initiatives from the 2014 Farm Bill to support local and regional farm and food systems. Projects to benefit from the changes include direct-to-consumer marketing outlets such as farmers markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture, along with broader local and regional marketing channels such as food hubs, mid-tier value chains, and wholesale and retail enterprises that aggregate, process, or distribute food from area farms.
One of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) four pillars of rural economic development, local and regional food system development not only promotes rural livelihoods and new farm and rural economic opportunities but also greater consumer choice, improved access to fresh and healthy food, and the local economic multiplier effect in communities throughout the country.
Expanded Grant Program Helps Meet the Growing Demand
The announcement today recognizes the skyrocketing consumer demand for locally-grown food, one of the fastest growing sectors in American agriculture. Secretary Vilsack announced the initial implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill’s expansion of the popular Farmers Market Promotion Program into the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP). FMLFPP and its predecessor program have been championed by NSAC for over a decade. The scaling up of the program in the 2014 Farm Bill was part of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) with a host of co-sponsors.
“For small and mid-sized family farmers, the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program helps boost income and scale up to bigger markets,” said Eugene Kim, Policy Specialist with NSAC. “Additionally, this program strengthens the infrastructure necessary to help get products to market, long identified as a key missing ingredient for meeting consumer demand for local food.”
Under the request for applications released today, $15 million is available for grants for direct-to-consumer outlets like farmers markets, community supported agriculture, pick your owns, agritourism, and other forms of direct marketing; another $15 million will be available in grants for local and regional food enterprises that are not direct farmer-to-consumer markets. Under both parts of the program, the fundamental goal of FMLFPP is to develop new marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers.
The Agricultural Marketing Service, which administers FMLFPP, posted the Request for Applications (RFA) for $15 million in grants for direct-to-consumer outlets on their webpage shortly after the Secretary’s announcement. The RFA for the $15 million in grants for local and regional food enterprises has been posted on a different AMS webpage. Applications are due June 20, 2014.
Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan Local Food Enterprise Program Reach Extended
In addition, Secretary Vilsack announced the availability of $48 million in loan guarantees for local and regional food enterprises through the Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (B&I) with the addition of an important clarification to help extend the program’s reach to help more farmers in rural areas. Federal loan guarantees are particularly important for start-up businesses in emerging sectors like local and regional food where commercial and other lenders are new to the sector and business models. Applications for these loan guarantees are accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants should refer to the B&I webpage and contact their local Rural Development office for details.
Through a provision championed by NSAC, the B&I program includes a minimum five percent reservation of funds for local and regional food enterprises, a reservation that this year equals $48 million or more in loan guarantees. The local food provision was enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill and reaffirmed in the 2014 Farm Bill.
The new B&I notice from USDA clarifies that, in addition to B&I projects located in rural areas, USDA will consider loan guarantee proposals from food aggregation and distribution facilities that are located in non-rural areas, so long as those entities benefit local and regional farmers and help increase access to high quality food in high poverty areas.
This allows aggregation and distribution facilities to be located nearer to the ultimate consumer market, thereby improving the economics of the business and increasing economic returns to the farmers supplying the market.
“NSAC applauds USDA for enhancing the program in this manner,” said Greg Fogel, Senior Policy Specialist with NSAC. “We believe it will result in more farmers and related rural food businesses being assisted by connecting them to growing consumer markets for local and regionally produced food products.”