USDA’s $56 Million Cash Injection for Organics and Local Food

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29 Sep 2016 --- Research into organics, regional food systems and support for farmers markets are being given a US$56 million boost in funding as the US government creates new market opportunities for producers and encourages consumers to better connect with their food.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants during yesterday’s (September 28) New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference which brings together a range of leaders to discuss important issues and trends affecting how to feed the global population. 

The package is the latest funding from the USDA which has invested more than US$1 billion in 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. "Over the years, we've seen how these new market opportunities are helping to drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship in rural communities, and expand food access and choice. 
“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."

There were three significant funding announcements: US$26 million in farmers market and local food promotion program grants for more than 100 projects that will support rural economies, increase market access for farmers and help close supply chain gaps in communities across the US. Another US$21.4 million for organic research and extension program grants for 26 projects to help organic farmers and ranchers improve operations and bring more organic food to the table of consumers. There was also US$8.6 million in community food projects grants to 33 projects that help make healthy, nutritious foods available to low-income neighborhoods. 

USDA says it is committed to helping organic agriculture grow and thrive by strongly supporting the organic sector through a wide variety of programs, including conservation grants, organic crop insurance, certification cost-share, organic market news, and simplified microloans. 

Vilsack also talked about how US$48.1 million will be available in 2017 through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to support systems-based research, science-based solutions and new technology for the specialty crop industry such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops and horticulture. 

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