Farmers markets to get big boost thanks to Farm Bill

05/08/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Farm Bill, farms, farmers market, USDA, agriculture


Small agricultural operations -- like Tampa's Sweetwater Organic Farm, where these sunflowers were photographed in April 2011 -- could benefit from the USDA program announced Thursday.

photo by Seán Kinane

The USDA is pumping almost $80 million into local food programs. Department secretary Tom Vilsack announced a program during a conference call Thursday that will offer $30 million in grant money for things like farmers markets. The rest of the funding will guarantee loans for small and medium-sized agriculture businesses.

“The industry loan program will clarify that these resources can now be used for an urban project so long as it’s benefiting rural producers.”

The funding is available as part of the 2014 Farm Bill signed by President Obama earlier this year. Vilsack called the program a job creator.

“First of all, it’s clearly a market opportunity for small and medium-sized operations that need additional market opportunities where they are not necessarily competing against larger commercial-sized operations for profit and for business.”

He also lauded the effort as a green initiative.

“Because obviously locally and regionally produced food is not traveling quite as far as other food products are traveling in order to get to people’s homes and on their dining room table or breakfast table.”

Applications for guaranteed loans will be on the USDA’s website. Businesses can apply for grant money to start a farmer’s market or other agricultural food enterprise on the USDA’s rural development website.

“State rural development offices will basically allow and take applications for any state that might be interested in establishing a food hub.”

The 2014 Farm Bill also tripled funding for marketing local food enterprises. Of the $78 million appropriation, $15 million is available for promotion.

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