USDA announces $27 million in agriculture marketing grants

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Services has announced the availability of $27 million in grants meant to fund projects aimed at bolstering marketing for local and regional food producers and businesses, according to a release.

The USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Services are requesting applications for its Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs. These grants, according to the release, are aimed at “helping to revitalize rural America by supporting local and regional food stakeholders.”

Peter Wood, a spokesman for the United States Department of Agriculture, stated via email that funds will also be available on a 1-to-1 matching basis through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program. Rather than help farmers, cooperatives and various other agriculture businesses and governments with marketing directly, these funds will be used by state departments of agriculture, public universities and various other agencies to research the challenges experienced by the local and regional food industry, namely transportation, marketing and distribution.

Wood stated that for the Farmers Market Promotion Program, those eligible for grant funding include gricultural businesses, cooperatives, community supported agriculture networks, economic development corporations, nonprofits and local governments among others. Those eligible for funding from Local Food Promotion Program grants are similar.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program requires no matching funds from the recipient. The Local Food Promotion Program funding requires a 25 percent match of the total project cost, Wood stated.

As more Americans have begun to pay attention to the sources of what they consume, businesses such as the ones these grants are geared toward have become more prevalent. Wood stated the grants are designed to help strengthen marketing opportunities for those eligible entities.

“FMPP helps communities establish farmers markets, community-supported agriculture enterprises, road-side stands, and agritourism in all 50 states and U.S. Territories,” Wood stated. “All project proposals must demonstrate community support and directly benefit farmers and ranchers.”

Wood noted that community support is among the required criteria for applicants, which is valuated by Agricultural Marketing Service staff.

“Applicants are required to show evidence of existing community or industry support and engagement,” he stated. “AMS will not award grant funds for projects that solely benefit one individual or entity.”

There is a lengthy review process consisting of a review of initial qualification, a technical review and an administrative review. The technical review is reviewed by peer reviewers from outside the Agricultural Marketing Service. The applications are classified by score and rank until a decision is reached.

Wood noted that geographic distribution is also factored in to the evaluation process in order to have widespread participation. Any qualified operation, regardless of size, is eligible for the funding.

The deadline to apply is March 27 and awarded grants will become available in September. Those who own or represent qualified entities can apply online through grants.gov.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com