USDA will award matching grants for 22 projects under the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program to help create economic opportunities for American farmers and ranchers.
USDA will match nearly $1.2 million in grants for state departments of agriculture and state universities in 18 states and the District of Columbia. The projects will enable states to research new opportunities, and spark innovation in the marketing, transportation and distribution of U.S. agricultural products.
"The agricultural economy is resilient and remains strong and these investments will help increase economic opportunity for producers and increase access to healthy food for consumers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "By partnering with states and universities on these projects, we hope to generate new ideas and create new marketing channels that will help our farmers and ranchers and create an even stronger rural America."
More than half of the 22 projects focus on increasing sales of value added meat products, aquaculture products, and fresh and processed produce in local and regional food systems. Other research topics include forestry, bioenergy and horticulture.
In New Mexico, the state university and the department of agriculture will work with the cattle growers' association and others to survey ranchers about their marketing practices. The project will examine marketing barriers and challenges created by the ongoing drought. Researchers will use the information to identify marketing best practices.
Expanding vegetable options in the United States is an emphasis for projects from the universities of District of Columbia (UDC) and Hawaii. The UDC will measure the demand for traditional African vegetables grown by local farmers to determine the economic viability of producing those crops on a regular basis. In Hawaii, the university will work with West coast retailers to develop a strategy for marketing three varieties of local vegetables to consumers. The project will also identify the best packing methods for preserving quality and nutritional content over long distances.
Farm to school is the focus for grants awarded in New Jersey and Montana. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will continue its work with Rutgers University to develop affordable food products tailored for the state's school lunch program that will provide a new and sustainable market for New Jersey growers. The Montana Department of Agriculture and its partners will explore ways to ensure K-12 schools have access to fruits and vegetables year-round.
Since 1976, USDA's Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program has partnered with states across the country to support 925 projects that exemplify marketing innovation. Visit www.ams.usda.gov/FSMIP for a list of this year's projects. The program is part of USDA's integrated approach to programs and policies that stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development.
In 2009, USDA launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to strengthen the critical connection between farmers and consumers and support local and regional food systems. During the past three years, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food has been successful in fostering new opportunities for farmers and ranchers; cultivating healthy eating habits; and expanding access to fresh, affordable local food.