“Consumer demand for locally produced food is strong and growing, and farmers and ranchers are positioning their businesses to meet that demand,” Vilsack said in a news release. Vilsack said projects for aggregation, processing, and distribution across the local food supply chain have been growing rapidly.
Vilsack said in the release that $48 million in loan guarantees for local food projects is now available through USDA’s Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. In addition, he said $30 million is available through competitive grants via the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program.
The 2014 Farm Bill tripled funding for marketing and promotion support for local food enterprises by creating the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service, according to the release. The new program makes $30 million available annually to farmers markets, other direct producer-to-consumer venues, and other businesses in the local food supply chain, Under the program, the release said $15 million is now available for marketing and promotional support specifically for local food businesses, including food hubs, delivery and aggregation businesses, and processing and storage facilities along the local food supply chain, while $15 million is for marketing support for farmers markets and other direct to consumer outlets. Since 2009, AMS, which administers this program, has funded nearly 450 projects totaling $27 million to support direct marketing efforts for local food, according to the release. More information about how to apply is available on the AMS website and applications are due June 20, 2014.
USDA’s ongoing investments in farmers’ markets have paid, Vilsack said in a teleconference on May 8. With more 8,100 farmers markets now in the U.S., Vilsack said the number of markets is up 74% compared with since 2008. He said the USDA has already invested in 450 food hubs in the U.S.
“We’re excited about this announcement and continuing the momentum of implementing a good solid farm bill and hoping this creates opportunities for small and medium sized producers as well as creating jobs in rural areas,” Vilsack said.
Beside the farmers markets that USDA supports, Vilsack said there are 71 farm to school projects in 42 states across the country where school districts are purchasing food locally.
The 2014 farm bill requires USDA to set aside at least 5% of Business and Industry program loan guarantees for projects that focus on local food enterprises, according to the release.
Details on how to apply for local food funding through the B&I program are available on the Rural Development website. In 2013, the release said Rural Development supported more than 170 local food infrastructure projects.
Entities eligible for B&I loan guarantees include cooperatives, non-profit organizations, corporations, partnerships or other legal entities, Indian tribes, public bodies or individuals.