USDA invests in diverse food access through Farmers Market Promotion Grants, research of specialty crops and extension activities

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USDA SUPPORTS DIVERSE FOOD ACCESS THROUGH FARMERS MARKET PROMOTION PROGRAM GRANTS

Nearly 150 farm-to-consumer marketing projects received funding today under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), marking a $9.2 million investment to support direct marketing and to increase consumer access to healthy food, much of it in food deserts and other low-income areas. This year’s awards– 149 in total, distributed across 42 states and the District of Columbia– showed a rise in urban projects and increased diversity in the types of projects funded.

“Earlier this year, we reported that more than 1,000 new farmers markets have been recorded across the United States, totaling 7,175 markets,” said Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “Through programs like FMPP, we believe that USDA’s contributions to direct farm-to-consumer marketing are providing alternative economic opportunities for our nation’s agricultural producers.”

Traditionally, FMPP has funded projects in both rural and urban areas. However, this year saw a shift toward a more even distribution, with urban projects growing to nearly half of the portfolio. Increasing fresh food access in food deserts – low-income areas identified as having limited access to affordable and nutritious food – and other low-income communities was a priority for this year’s awards. As a result, over 40 percent of projects funded by FMPP this year serve one or more food deserts and another 20 percent will be implemented in communities with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher.

Additionally, improvements in transportation and delivery methods, purchase of refrigeration equipment and improvements to packaging and storage that facilitate food access comprise nearly a third of the projects funded. Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) projects continue to exceed the congressionally mandated 10 percent, accounting for approximately 24 percent of total funding which gives participants in federal nutrition assistance programs even greater access to nutritious food.

 

USDA INVESTS IN AMERICA’S SPECIALTY CROPS WITH RESEARCH AND EXTENSION ACTIVITIES IN 19 STATES

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced 29 grants across 19 states to develop and share science-based tools to address the needs of America’s specialty crop industry. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding the grants, totaling $46 million, through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

“Over the last 60 years, agriculture, including horticulture, has become increasingly reliant on science and technology to maintain profitable production,” Merrigan said. “Specialty crop producers in the United States—as with all of American agriculture—are seeing sales surge both domestically and abroad as consumers search for high quality, ‘Grown in America’ fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. These projects will help provide specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high quality products, supporting jobs and opportunities for Americans working in specialty crops. From herbs to apples, from walnuts to grapes, specialty crops are central to the richness of American agriculture.”

SCRI supports the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops. Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” Funded projects address five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety.

SCRI gives priority to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional or trans-disciplinary; and include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of funded projects addresses two or more focus areas, and includes many collaborating institutions in addition to the awardee.

The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from researching plant genetics to improving crop characteristics; identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases; improving production and profitability; developing new production innovations and technologies; and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.

Projects were funded in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Most of the grant recipients are universities and colleges. A full list of awardees can be found online at: www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/scri_awards.html.

Source: USDA Office of Communications

 

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