by Whitney Flach
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $56 million in grants to strengthen local and regional food systems, support farmers markets, and fund organic research while at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference. The Food for Tomorrow Conference, brings together a range of leaders to discuss important issues and trends affecting how we feed our nation and the world.
USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local food businesses and infrastructure projects. “Since this Administration launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative in 2009 to coordinate USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems, there has been a dramatic increase in consumer demand for buying local,” said Vilsack. He explained at the conference that over the years, the new market opportunities have begun helping drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship in rural communities, and expand food access and choice.
At the conference, Vilsack made three significant funding announcements. The first one would give $26 million in Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grants for more than 100 projects that will support rural economies, increase market opportunities for farmers, and help close supply chain gaps in communities across the country. The second one was $21.4 million for Organic Research and Extension Program grants for 26 projects to help organic farmers and ranchers improve business operations and bring more organic food to the table of consumers. Lastly, is $8.6 Million in Community Food Projects grants to 33 projects that help make healthy, nutritious foods available to people from low-income neighborhoods.
In conjunction with the funding announcements, Vilsack announced $48.1 million in available fiscal year 2017 funding through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative to support systems-based research and extension activities that accelerate science-based solutions and new technology for the specialty crop industry.
“This latest round of grants will expand the capacity of farmers and businesses to serve this growing market, help revitalize local economies around the country, and support efforts around the country to provide fresh, healthy food to all Americans,” said Vilsack.