The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced up to $12 million in funding available to strengthen and explore new market opportunities for U.S. agricultural products and increase access to locally grown food in communities experiencing food insecurity. The funding is available through three grant programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS): the Acer Access and Development Program, the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, and the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program.

“Each of these grant programs focus on a different area of the food system, but all work to support USDA’s goals to create new market opportunities that bring equity and financial stability to small farms and that rural and historically underserved communities have access to fresh, locally grown foods,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The projects funded through these programs will improve the nation’s food system by developing new products, supporting small-scale producers and improving healthy food access in food insecure communities.”

Acer Access and Development Program

This year, up to $6 million is available through the Acer Access and Development Program for projects that expand consumer awareness of the maple syrup industry and provide valuable resources to maple syrup producers. The program promotes the domestic maple syrup industry by funding research and education projects related to maple syrup production, natural resource sustainability in the maple syrup industry, and the marketing of maple syrup and maple-sap products. Acer funding is authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and funded through annual appropriations.

Examples of projects previously awarded grants funds through the Acer Access and Development Program include:

Stockton University used Acer Access and Development Program funding to help increase maple syrup production in New Jersey and the larger Mid-Atlantic region through the use of novel technology, landowner engagement, and sustainable forest management. The project fostered a new consumer base for maple products in a region where pure maple products are not embedded in the culture of the community.
A West Virginia University Research Corp project used Acer Access and Development Program funding to assemble a team of experts in forest management, forest operations, forest pathology, landowner assistance, and maple syrup operations to create an integrated program designed to promote maple syrup production by educating forest landowners, foresters, and loggers on the nuances of southern sugarbush management. The program helped increase maple syrup production by increasing the number of maple trees tapped as landowners learn about these opportunities.

Federal State Marketing Improvement Program

Through the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, up to $1 million in grant funding is available to support projects that explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving marketing system efficiency and performance. The program supports state departments of agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations, and other appropriate state agencies. FSMIP is authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 and funded by annual appropriations.

One successful project that recently received funding through the Federal State Marketing Improvement program was managed by the University of Kentucky. The university received the grant to identify best practices in sustaining financially profitable relationships between local producers and restaurants. The project focused on developing strategies for verifying local purchasing, evaluating different systems for verifying businesses’ level of local sourcing, and gauging consumer willingness to pay for locally produced foods. By understanding the strategies of consumer engagement and local product incentivization and verification, the project developed best practices that state departments of agriculture are using to improve local-sourcing programs. These outcomes improve economic opportunities for farmers and extended rural economies.

Micro-Grants for Food Security Program

Additionally, up to $5 million is available through the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program to agricultural agencies in eligible states and territories to increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food in food insecure communities through small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations. The program focuses on food insecure communities in areas of the U.S. that have significant levels of food insecurity and import a significant quantity of foods. The agricultural agencies or departments competitively distribute the funds through subawards to eligible entities. The Micro-Grants for Food Security Program is authorized through the 2018 Farm Bill and funded by annual appropriations.

Through a subaward from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, a family in Alaska recently received funding through the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program to increase food availability in their local community. The funding enabled the family to freeze dry Alaskan fruits and vegetables and purchase a high tunnel and freeze drier. As a result, they increased their gardening space and now provide biweekly food deliveries to families, supplying 18 people in their area.

Application Information

A Request for Applications (RFAs) for each program is available on the program webpages listed below. Applications must be submitted electronically through by 11:59 p.m. ET on the date listed in the respective RFAs. Grant applications submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application. More information is available in the AMS Late and Non-Responsive Application Policy.

AMS encourages applications for initiatives that benefit smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, low-income, and minority individuals, and underserved communities. For projects intending to serve these entities, applicants should engage and involve those beneficiaries when developing projects and applications.