Federal grants now available for local food initiatives

Local Farms-Local FoodsFB

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today announced the availability of new grants to support local agriculture under legislation she sponsored, the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, enacted as part of the recent farm bill legislation.

“This is money that is going to help the local food economy grow and expand in Maine and around the country,” Pingree said in a press release. “And every dollar that is spent locally is a dollar that support jobs in our communities and gives consumers more access to quality, sustainably grown food.”

Pingree’s release also noted that organic products sales in Maine have grown from $23.3 million in 2007 to $36.4 million in 2012. Pingree emphasized that the grant programs announced today will support a range of activities, from getting more local food in schools to promoting farmers markets.

MECEP research and analysis has demonstrated how such local enterprise can contribute substantially to the economy at both the state and local levels. The grant programs Congresswoman Pingree announced today include:

The Farmers Market Promotion Program

In addition to helping promote farmers markets, this program will help local producers by supporting projects like community kitchen facilities, where food can be processed, stored and transported. Grants can also be used to help farmers markets obtain the technology to process EBT cards for consumers who use food stamps. Over 5,000 farmers markets now accept EBT cards, and SNAP redemption at farmers markets nationwide rose from $4 million in 2009 to over $18 million in 2014.   Deadline May 14.  click here.

The Local Food Promotion Program

These grants support projects for direct farmer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.  Deadline May 14.  click here.

Farm to School Program

Four different kinds of grants are available: planning grants for schools just getting started on farm to school activities, implementation grants for schools that already have programs in place, support services to help grow existing programs, and training and technical assistance grants to help schools learn about buying local, food safety and culinary education.  Deadline May 19.  click here.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

This program is administered through state agriculture departments and helps farmers increase the value of fruits and vegetables grown and sold in the state.  In the past, these grants have supported maple syrup marketing assistance, research into honeybees and potato pest management.  More info click here.