US – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a substantial allocation of up to USD 12 million in funding, aimed at fortifying U.S. agricultural products’ market presence and enhancing access to locally grown food in communities grappling with food insecurity.

This funding initiative is administered through three grant programs under the purview of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS): the Acer Access and Development Program, the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, and the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program.

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Lester Moffitt, articulated the significance of these grant programs, emphasizing their pivotal role in fostering equity and financial stability for small farms while ensuring access to fresh, locally sourced food for rural and historically underserved communities.

“The projects funded through these programs will improve the nation’s food system by developing new products, supporting small-scale producers, and improving healthy food access in food-insecure communities,” she remarked.

Empowering maple syrup industry and sustainable forest management

Under the Acer Access and Development Program, up to $6 million is earmarked for initiatives aimed at raising consumer awareness of the maple syrup industry and providing crucial resources to maple syrup producers.

The program, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, facilitates research and educational projects focusing on maple syrup production, sustainable natural resource management, and effective marketing strategies.

Notable projects previously supported by Acer Access and Development Program funding include Stockton University’s efforts to boost maple syrup production in New Jersey and the broader Mid-Atlantic region.

Through innovative technology adoption and sustainable forest management practices, Stockton University fostered a new consumer base for maple products in a region where such products were not deeply ingrained in the local culture.

Promoting market opportunities and enhancing efficiency

The Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, with a budget of up to $1 million, aims to bolster market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products while fostering research and innovation to enhance marketing system efficiency.

This program, established under the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, extends support to state agricultural agencies and experiment stations for initiatives promoting marketing system enhancement.

An exemplar project recently funded under this program, managed by the University of Kentucky, focused on identifying best practices for sustaining profitable relationships between local producers and restaurants.

By delving into consumer engagement strategies and local product verification methods, the project generated insights that are now being leveraged by state departments of agriculture to bolster local-sourcing programs, thus enhancing economic opportunities for farmers and rural economies.

Addressing food insecurity through local initiatives

The Micro-Grants for Food Security Program, with a budget allocation of up to $5 million, targets agricultural agencies in eligible states and territories to amplify the quantity and quality of locally grown food in food-insecure communities.

By supporting small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations, this program endeavors to augment food availability in regions facing significant levels of food insecurity.

One such success story involves a family in Alaska, facilitated by a subaward from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

With funding from the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program, the family expanded their gardening space, invested in infrastructure, and now provide regular food deliveries to families in their area, directly impacting the lives of 18 individuals.

Application process and inclusivity

Prospective applicants are encouraged to review the Request for Applications (RFAs) available on the respective program webpages and submit their proposals electronically through by the specified deadline.

AMS underscores the importance of initiatives benefiting smaller farms, underserved producers, and vulnerable communities, urging applicants to engage these stakeholders in project development and implementation.

This funding initiative reflects USDA’s steadfast commitment to fostering agricultural innovation, promoting food security, and advancing economic opportunities across diverse segments of the farming community.

Through collaborative efforts and strategic investments, USDA endeavors to build a more resilient and equitable food system for all.

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