The coronavirus pandemic revealed how important resilient regional and local food systems are to ensure that farmers can access markets and customers can access fresh and healthy foods. There are a few federal programs that support strengthening local and regional food systems, explained by our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) below. There is another grant opportunity for innovative practices that reduce on-farm emissions, build healthy soils, reduce energy used with irrigation, among other aims.
$76.9 Million in Local and Regional Food Project Grants Available
On May 5, 2021 USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the availability of $76.9 million in funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP). FMLFPP has two subprograms – the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) – with a separate Request for Applications (RFA) for each subprogram. Both programs provide grants on a competitive basis for a wide variety of direct-to-consumer and local food marketing projects.
Farmers Market Promotion Program – FMPP supports projects that have a direct farmer-to-consumer focus, such as: farmers markets, CSA (i.e. community supported agriculture) programs, roadside farm stands, pick-your own operations, and agritourism. The current RFA for FMPP can be found here, general information about FMPP can be found here.
Local Food Promotion Program – LFPP seeks to develop and expand local and regional food business enterprises to increase access to locally produced foods and develop new market opportunities for local producers. LFPP supports projects including, but not limited to processing, distribution, aggregation, storage, and marketing of locally or regionally produced food products sold through intermediated marketing channels. The current RFA for LFPP can be found here, and additional information about the program can be found here.
$15 Million Available to Support Regional Food Economy Development Projects
On May 5, 2021 USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the availability of $15.3 million in funding for the second ever Request for Applications (RFA) for the Regional Food Systems Partnership (RFSP) Program. RFSP is a new program that supports foodshed-level approaches to planning and developing local and regional food economies. RFSP is intended to broadly support the:
- Development of business plans, feasibility studies and strategies for local and regional marketing opportunities and local and regional food systems infrastructure development;
- Development of regional food systems and improved healthy food access through community collaboration and expansion of food hubs, mid-tier value chains, and other similar types of business ventures; and
- Economic opportunities for producers and food businesses through job creation.
$25 Million Available for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Grants
On April 21, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the availability of $25 million in funding to advance the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation practices on agricultural lands. The funding is for on-farm trials, a sub-program of the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. CIGs are designed to support collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and evaluate their impacts. Participating farmers and ranchers receive payments to offset the risk and investments for testing out new conservation approaches.
Priorities: 2021 On-Farm Trials – Each year, NRCS identifies priority topics for On-Farm Trials. For 2021, applicants must address one of the four following priorities:
- Climate-smart agricultural solutions: projects that focus on approaches to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases or enhancing soil carbon and perennial biomass sequestration. All selected applications must use quantification methodologies that align with the USDA report titled Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory.
- Soil health demonstration trial: projects that are demonstrations of long-term, successful Soil Health Management Systems and/or production systems transitioning to a Soil Health Management System. Applications must indicate which of the four soil health management principles their project addresses, as well as identify at least one of the national Soil Health Demonstration subpriorities (see more details below).
- Irrigation water management: projects that enhance a producer’s ability to monitor irrigation needs effectively, manage irrigation practices efficiently, and increase water savings.
- Management technologies and strategies: projects that help producers effectively manage production systems while achieving conservation benefits through more efficient application and management. This category includes many ideas derived from both the On-Farm Trials statute and other NRCS ideas. See the funding announcement for examples.
Soil Health Demonstration Trial – the Soil Health Demonstration Trial (SHD) component, which focuses exclusively on conservation practices and systems that enhance soil health and increase soil carbon. NRCS anticipates that up to $10 million of On-Farm Trials funding in 2021 will be awarded to entities applying for the SHD component. Participants in the SHD component must use consistent soil health and soil carbon assessment protocols developed by NRCS. Projects are evaluated in terms of soil health, as well as by the economic outcomes generated as a result of the conservation practices. This option supports farmers in their efforts to build soil health, while simultaneously measuring, evaluating, and reporting on the outcomes associated with these projects.
The deadline to apply for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials is June 21, 2021 and apply online through grants.gov. NRCS held a webinar for On-Farm Trials on May 13, 2021 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time to provide more information to potential applicants. The recording of the webinar is available online, in addition to other helpful resources for applicants. Read the original blog post from NSAC here.