Thursday, October 13, 2011

USDA Announces 2011 Farmers Market Promotion Program Awards

USDA Announces 2011 Farmers Market Promotion Program Awards

Washington, DC October 13, 2011 – Today USDA announced the recipients of this year’s Farmers Market Promotion Program awards. The 2011 awards span 149 projects in 42 States and the District of Columbia and total $9.2 million in funding.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) aims to increase and strengthen direct producer-to-consumer marketing channels. Through a competitive grants application process, FMPP funds marketing proposals not only for farmers markets but also for community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, roadside stands, agritourism, and other direct marketing strategies. For example, the 2011 FMPP awards include funding for 38 new and existing CSAs as well as 20 agritourism projects.

In fostering market promotion, FMPP also boosts farm income and stimulates economic development. Commenting on their 2011 FMPP award, Bob Junk with Fay-Penn Economic Development Council (an NSAC member group) in Uniontown, PA explains: “This award will allow us to sustain the six farmers markets we developed in the last year and a half and to develop future farmers markets, thus helping farmers and ranchers get a higher net return for their produce and giving consumers the opportunity and access to fresh, locally grown food.”

Within FMPP, there is currently a minimum funding set-aside of 10 percent for Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) projects. EBT is the mechanism by which participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, receive monthly benefits. Twenty-four percent of this year’s projects have an EBT component. In total, 17 new and 20 existing EBT projects were funded, including the first FMPP-funded EBT project for a pick-your-own operation.

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, an NSAC member group based in Maryland, is among the funded EBT projects for 2011. Highlighting the consumer and producer benefits of connecting SNAP participants with direct marketing outlets, Future Harvest-CASA Executive Director Alice Chalmers notes that “Thanks to this award, Marylanders in both rural and urban communities of all incomes will have increased ability to access local healthy food at their local farmers markets, and our local producers will benefit from a larger demand for their products.”

Along with increasing farm income and consumer access, USDA’s press release explains that “[i]ncreasing healthy food access in food deserts and low-income communities was a priority for the 2011 FMPP awards.” In sum, 64 percent of awarded projects in 2011 address these program priorities.

This year’s FMPP award to the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) of Minnesota, another NSAC member group, is but one example of food access priority and the utility of FMPP awards in serving ranchers and in addressing infrastructure gaps. Explains SFA Executive Director John Mesko, “The current lack of USDA and/or state-inspected meat processing facilities contributes to this region’s status as a food desert. This project will help expand the meat processing infrastructure in Northern Minnesota so people in the region can access locally-raised, lean meat directly from area farmers.”

Since the Farmers Market Promotion Program began in 2006, over $23 million in projects have been funded. Currently, funding for FMPP is set to end in 2012, when the current Farm Bill expires. NSAC will advocate to re-fund and increase funding for the program during the next farm bill cycle. Executive Director Jennifer Fike with the Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) in Ann Arbor, Michigan underscores the importance of the program: “The FMPP grant is a crucial program funded through the Farm Bill and is increasing food access and creating jobs in food and agriculture, which is the second leading industry in Michigan with an economic impact of $71 billion. Continued funding of Farm Bill programs such as FMPP is key to Michigan’s economic recovery.”

FSEP, an NSAC member group, received an FMPP award this year to support the Tilian Farm Development Center, who along with the Ann Arbor Township and other partners, is providing infrastructure and resources for beginning farmers, furthering the Township’s goal of enhancing farming operations to encourage the production of food for local markets.

NSAC is calling on Congress to renew and expand funding for this program as it starts to draft the 2012 Farm Bill. Illustrating need and demand for the program, this year USDA could only fund about one-third of the 397 project applications, which totaled over $30 million in requested funding. NSAC also advocates for leveling the playing field for EBT at direct marketing outlets. Rather than relying on FMPP and private funders, we urge Congress to provide farmers markets, CSAs, roadside stands, and other wireless outlets with EBT access through the same funding stream as grocery stores and corner stores.

In addition to the aforementioned awardees, NSAC congratulates our members the Ecological Farming Association in California, Florida Organic Growers, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association in both New York and Vermont for receiving FMPP awards this year.

No comments: