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USDA Local Food Initiatives

All USDA Programs Relevant to Local Foods

This section of the exhibit lists all of the USDA initiatives that have been identified by the
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food project as relevant to the topic of local foods.

National Farmers Market Directory

The Directory lists markets that feature two or more farm vendors selling agricultural products directly to customers at a common, recurrent physical location. Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Directory is designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.

National Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Directory

The CSA Directory lists farm or network/association of multiple farms that offer consumers regular (usually weekly) deliveries of locally-grown farm products during one or more harvest season(s) on a subscription or membership basis. Customers have access to a selected share or range of farm products offered by a single farm or group of farmers based on partial or total advance payment of a subscription or membership fee.

National Food Hub Directory

The Food Hub Directory lists businesses or organizations that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products to multiple buyers from multiple producers, primarily local and regional producers, to strengthen the ability of these producers to satisfy local and regional wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.

National On-Farm Markets Directory

The On-Farm Market Directory lists markets managed by a single farm operator that sells agricultural and/or horticultural products directly to consumers from a location on their farm property or on property adjacent to that farm.

Farmers Market Promotion Program

The Farmers Market Promotion Program is a component of the Farmers Marketing and Local Food Promotion Program, which is authorized by the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1946, as amended (7 U.S.C. 3005). The two competitive grant programs that are available include: the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP).

The goals of FMPP grants are to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets by developing, improving, expanding, and providing outreach, training, and technical assistance to, or assisting in the development, improvement, and expansion of, domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities. The maximum amount awarded for any one proposal cannot exceed $100,000; the minimum award is $15,000.

Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP)

The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) provides matching funds to State Departments of Agriculture, State agricultural experiment stations, and other appropriate State agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products, and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP)

States administer grant program to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, nursery crops, and floriculture), including locally grown and consumed specialty crops

Farm Service Agency (FSA) Programs

Farm Loans Program

USDA provides loans to farmers and ranchers through local Farm Service Agency county offices, and also works with local banks to provide a government guarantee for farm loans made by those financial institutions to farmers and ranchers.

Farmers and ranchers (including individuals, cooperatives, joint operations, corporations, and partnerships) who are unable to obtain financing from commercial lending sources can apply for direct and guaranteed loans. Direct loans are provided by the government to the farmer or rancher, and guaranteed loans are provided by a local bank with a guarantee from USDA. Funds are available to beginning farmers and ranchers who have been in business for less than 10 years and are family-sized farmers. Funds are also available to women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders who are farming or entering into farming. FSA also makes Youth Loans of up to $5,000 to help young people work on an agricultural project in conjunction with local farm organizations.

Farm Storage Facility Loan Program

The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program provides low-interest financing so producers can build or upgrade permanent facilities to store commodities. Eligible commodities include grains, oilseeds, peanuts, pulse crops, hay, honey, renewable biomass commodities, fruits and vegetables. Eligible facility types include grain bins, hay barns and facilities for cold storage.

Farm to School Grant Program

The purpose of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program is to assist eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards up to $5 million in competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) awards grants to States, U.S. Territories, and federally recognized Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.

WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)

The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. The WIC Program provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education at no cost to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age, who are found to be at nutritional risk.

The  WIC FMNP was established by Congress in 1992, to provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, and to expand the awareness, use of, and sales at farmers’ markets. Women, infants (over 4 months old) and children that have been certified to receive WIC program benefits or who are on a waiting list for WIC certification are eligible to participate in the WIC FMNP. State agencies may serve some or all of these categories.  A variety of fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs may be purchased with FMNP coupons. State agencies can limit sales to specific foods grown within State borders to encourage FMNP recipients to support the farmers in their own States.

Agriculture and Food and Research Initiative (AFRI): Improved Sustainable Food Systems

Provides grants to institutions of higher education to conduct research, education, and extension on local and regional food systems, from field to fork, that will increase sustainable food security in U.S. communities and expand viability within local economies.

Agriculture and Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) - Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities

Provides grants to institutions of higher education to support research, education, and/or extension projects that address the long-term viability of small and medium-sized farms, entrepreneurship and small business development, markets and trade, and rural communities.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

Provides grants to organizations that train, educate, and provide outreach and technical assistance to new and beginning farmers on production, marketing, business management, legal strategies and other topics critical to running a successful operation.

Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP)

Provides grants to organizations developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. Community Food Projects are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

Provides grants to non-profit organizations, researchers and individual producers, including the following types:

Research and Education Grants: Ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 or more, these grants fund projects that usually involve scientists, producers, and others in an interdisciplinary approach;

Professional Development Grants: Ranging from $20,000 to $120,000, these grants spread the knowledge about sustainable concepts and practices by educating Cooperative Extension Service staff and other agricultural professionals; and

Producer Grants: Ranging from $1,000 and $15,000 to conduct research, marketing and demonstration projects and share the results with other farmers and ranchers.

Conservation Stewardship Program

Helps producers carry out activities that conserve or improve the quality of natural resources on their land, such as soil, water, air and wildlife. The program shares the costs of implementing existing or new conservation activities in a comprehensive manner. The sale of "locally grown and marketed farm products" is considered a conservation enhancement under this program.

Conservation Technical Assistance

Helps individuals manage natural resources such as soil, water, and wildlife. This program provides a broad array of assistance, including the conservation planning that must occur before an application for financial assistance from another program is approved, and technical assistance to help individuals comply with regulatory requirements.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Assists farmers and ranchers in planning and implementing conservation practices that improve the natural resources (e.g. soil, water, wildlife) on their agricultural land and forestland. A practice supported through EQIP is the installation of seasonal high tunnels (also known as hoop houses), which are unheated greenhouses that can extend a producer's growing season while conserving resources.

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

Assists with the purchase of conservation easements from volunteer landowners to keep agricultural lands in production. These easements ensure that the land will never be developed out of agricultural uses and provide income for landowners.

Risk Management Agency (RMA) Programs

Risk Management Education and Outreach

Partners with educational institutions and community based organizations to provide farmers and ranchers (especially minority, limited resource and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers) with information on new ways to manage risk. This program funds risk management strategies related to production (including crop insurance), marketing, legal, human, and financial issues.

Rural Development Programs

Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (B&I)

Helps new and existing businesses based in rural areas gain access to affordable capital, USDA provides guarantees on loans made by private lenders. By issuing a guarantee, USDA essentially co-signs the loan with the loan recipient, lowering the lender's risk and allowing for more favorable interest rates and terms.

Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program

Provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area, and does not include private, commercial or business undertakings.

Rural Business Development Grants

Supports targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas that have fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenues. Programmatic activities are separated into enterprise or opportunity type grant activities.

Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program

Improves the economic condition of rural areas by assisting individuals and businesses in the startup, expansion or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through Cooperative Development Centers. Grants are awarded through a national competition. Each fiscal year, applications are requested through a notice published in the Federal Register and through an announcement posted on Grants.gov.

Value Added Producer Grants

Helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain. Grants are awarded through a national competition. Each fiscal year, applications are requested through a notice published in the Federal Register and through an announcement posted on Grants.gov.