USDA Announces $78 Million to Boost Local Food

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Regional food received  an impressive new spurn of funding from the USDA last week. The money is split between the Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program ($48 million) and available grants from Agriculture Marketing Services ($30 million) targeted at giving much needed federal investment in “food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises.” 

Locally sourced food now accounts for roughly $7 billion a year  in sales but with any emerging sector, cash investments are needed to continue its growth, and its exciting to see the USDA taking a proactive approach and creating new funding options for farmers, growers, and sellers of locally sourced food.

This comes in tandem with the 2014 Farm Bill tripling the funding for and renaming the existing Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to allow grants to support regional food system infrastructure, as well as direct marketing programs for farmers.

These new funds are available to a wide variety of regional food stakeholders including; cooperatives, non-profit organizations, corporations, partnerships or other legal entities, Indian tribes, public bodies or individuals.

The USDA is accepting applications for the funds on a rolling basis, so our Northwest regional food developers should get their applications in ASAP.

You can read all the details in the USDA’s press release here.

USDA Announces New Programs For Small and Mid-Sized Farms

northwest produce boxThere was more good news last week for small and mid-sized farmers with an announcement from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about new efforts from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve smaller farms.

This includes an expansion of the Farm Storage and Facility Loan Program, which provides low-interest financing to producers.  Since its inception in May 2000, the program has made over $33,000 loans, mostly to large and commodity farmers. The changes to the program will make it easier for diversified small and medium sized farmers to quality.  It also expands how the funds can be used to include produce cold storage and handling, with 23 new categories of eligible equipment including sorting bins, wash stations and other food safety related equipment. The loans will also have less strict security requirements, with loans up to $100,000 secured only by a promissory note. The USDA is also developing new tools to help these farmers and ranchers make better financial decisions when planning for their future, including a whole farm insurance policy that will better meet their needs.

While time will tell how these products perform in the marketplace, it shows a growing recognition among government officials of the importance of smaller, diversified farms.