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Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 6:12pm
Cattle futures roll over.
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 12:16pm
Pike Place Farmers Market in Seattle, WA. Photo credit: Stephanie Henry.

As part of our 2018 Farm Bill efforts, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) sought to strengthen programs and policies that support the growth of local food economies and support direct market opportunities for family farmers. One of the most significant achievements of those efforts was the development of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which combines and strengthens two longstanding pillars of support for local food entrepreneurs: the Farmers Market and Local Food Production Program (FMLFPP) and the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG).

With this new umbrella program structure now in place, farmers and food businesses need to know what to expect when applying for FMLFPP and/or VAPG grants.  Thus far, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has only released fiscal year (FY) 2019 grant information for FMLFPP; important updates and changes from last year’s request-for-applications (RFA) are detailed in this post.

On April 18, 2019, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the availability of $23 million in funding for FMLFPP, which is administered as two subprograms: The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). Both programs provide grants on a competitive basis for a wide spectrum of direct-to consumer and local food marketing projects.

The deadline this year for both grants is June 18, 2019 and must be submitted electronically through grants.gov.

Click here for more information about these funding opportunities and other resources available through AMS. To see examples of FMLFPP projects funded in FY 2018, click here.

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.

FMPP will continue to offer two distinct types of grants: 1) Capacity Building and 2) Community Development, Training and Technical Assistance Projects. There are no changes to the maximum and minimum awards size from last year. For Capacity Building (CB) projects, the minimum award is $50,000 and the maximum award is $250,000. For Community Development, Training and Technical Assistance (CTA) projects, the minimum grant award is $250,000 and maximum award level is $500,000.

The program now requires a 25 percent cash or in-kind match (further details below).

The maximum duration for both FMPP CB projects and CTA projects is 36 months;  projects are expected to begin on September 30, 2019 and be completed by September 29, 2022. The FY 2019 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, and storage and marketing of locally or regionally produced food products sold through intermediated marketing channels.

LFPP will continue to offer two types of grants: 1) Planning Grants and 2) Implementation Grants. There are no changes to the maximum and minimum awards size from last year. Planning Grants provides a minimum award of $25,000 and a maximum of $100,000. Implementation Grants have a minimum award of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000. The program also requires a 25 percent cash or in-kind match.

Planning projects grants have an award period of up to 18 months and are expected to begin on September 30, 2019 and be completed by March 31, 2021. Implementation project grants can be awarded for up to 36 months and are expected to begin on September 30, 2019 and be completed by September 29, 2022. The FY 2019 RFA for LFPP can be found here, and additional information about the program can be found here.

Changes to the FMLFPP Application for FY 2019

As part of every FMLFPP grant cycle, AMS asks for stakeholder feedback to improve the RFA and better meet the needs of future applicants. As part of that process, NSAC regularly submits recommendations developed from discussions with our member organizations and their networks. Some of our recommendations for LAMP and its subprograms were included in this year’s RFAs (see below).

Additionally, there were many changes to FMLFPP included in the new farm bill. These include:

  • Previously, only LFPP had a match requirement. Due to changes in the farm bill, this year both FMPP and LFPP grants will require a 25 percent match of cash and/or in-kind resources to the total of federal funds awarded. Every applicant must secure the matching contributions by the time the proposal is submitted and provide signed letters verifying the matching funds from each resource.
  • Food Policy Councils, entities that represent food organizations or local, tribal, or state governments, now qualify as eligible entities for both grants.
  • As directed in the farm bill, applicants to either grant may now use up to $6,500 of the amount requested in their application for upgrades to equipment to improve food safety. Increasing funding for food safety training and technical assistance was an issue NSAC fought hard for during the debate over the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • Each program will maintain the historical funding priority on projects that benefit communities located in areas of concentrated poverty. However, this priority is now expanded to target communities with limited access to supermarkets or locally or regionally grown food. This is an issue NSAC worked closely on as well during the farm bill debate.
Peer Review Panels

Every year, USDA seeks members of the public to serve on their grant peer review panels. The peer review panels help USDA review grant applications and recommend which projects should receive funding. Grant reviewers, typically people with academic, non-profit, and/or on the ground agriculture-related experience, help to ensure that the projects funded advance the goals of the program. If you are interested in being part of this process and bringing sustainable agriculture to the reviewers’ table, please consider volunteering for a FMLFPP peer review panel. AMS has launched a new peer reviewer application portal, which can be found here.

Appropriations

In order to meet the steadily increasing demand for locally and regionally produced food, farmers need targeted resources to help them bring their operations to scale. In FY 2018, FMPP received 320 applications, but only had enough resources to fund 49 (15 percent) of the projects. LFPP received 276 applications and similarly was only able to fund 51 (16 percent) projects.

Compared to FY 2018, this year FMLFPP saw a decrease in funding from $26.8 million to $23 million available for grant funding. NSAC knows the value of this growing industry – both for farmers and for consumers – and is fighting for expanded FMLFPP funding to support farm-to-fork pipeline programs in the FY 2020 appropriations package.

In FY 2020, debate around which has already begun, NSAC requests appropriators provide an additional $20 million in discretionary funding for LAMP grant funding, which would be split 50/50 between FMLFPP and VAPG. If secured, this would provide an additional $10 million for FMLFPP and restore funding that is in high demand. With the farm economy stuck in a prolonged downturn – increased investments in domestic markets and valued added agriculture is needed now more than ever.

The post $23 Million Available for Local Food Programs appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 10:00am

Aaron Wightman, operations manager at the Arnot Research Sugarbush, tours an area of Arnot Forest that has been managed to allow new tree growth.
Jason Koski / Cornell University

In an ecosystem, diversity means stability. When assessing the health of a natural space, one looks for diversity of species, diversity of ages within those species, balance between living and non living resources, and diversity between plant and animals. More and more research points to diversity in agricultural landscapes as a tool to create productive and sustainable food systems. This idea of promoting natural diversity within agricultural systems is demonstrated in Audobond Vermonts’s “Bird-Friendly Maple Project”. The project, which has been running since 2014, looks at new ways to manage sugar-bushes, or forests raised to produce maple products. It turns out that birds and maple production depend on the same thing: a healthy, diversified forest.

For birds, a monoculture of maple trees doesn’t provide habitats for tree specific bird species. A maple monoculture lacking a conifer component is unlikely to have species like blue-headed vireo, blackburnian warbler and sharp-shinned hawk. Besides habitats, Maple monocultures are missing food sources critical for migrating birds. Without fruiting trees and shrubs birds lack the fuel necessary to migrate long distances.

While it makes sense that bird species would thrive in a more diverse woodland, understanding how diversity promotes maple production is perhaps less intuitive. A University of Vermont Study found that sugarbushes with 25% non-maple trees experienced shorter and less intense insect outbreaks. Diversity is a key component of integrated pest management in any agro-ecological system. Varied habitats encourage beneficial species, natural enemies of pests, and offer general stability within the ecosystem.  

Just as increased species diversity creates stability in sugar-bushes, increased stakeholder diversity creates positive change in the food system. Increasing the number and diversity of stakeholders is a tactic often used to bring about change.

“Conservation of anything — birds, habitat, anything — requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” conservation biologist Steve Hagenbuch, who heads up Audubon Vermont’s Bird-Friendly Maple Project, told the Cornell Chronicle. “We can’t rely on protected areas, or even the goodwill of people interested in wildlife. We need to integrate [bird conservation] into our businesses, create financial incentives and encourage people to think about the role that their land management has in conservation.”

With this thought in mind, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is partnering with the Cornell Maple Program to develop bird-friendly sugar-bush management strategies. The collaboration will echo Audobond Vermonts’s project, with hopes to bring about both crop and bird health and sustainability. Bringing together the two large Cornell organizations multiplies the positive effects of each and will hopefully create a lasting positive impact on both bird populations and maple production in the area.

Read more about this exciting project in the spring 2019 issue of Living Bird magazine, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 10:00am

Aaron Wightman, operations manager at the Arnot Research Sugarbush, tours an area of Arnot Forest that has been managed to allow new tree growth.
Jason Koski / Cornell University

In an ecosystem, diversity means stability. When assessing the health of a natural space, one looks for diversity of species, diversity of ages within those species, balance between living and non living resources, and diversity between plant and animals. More and more research points to diversity in agricultural landscapes as a tool to create productive and sustainable food systems. This idea of promoting natural diversity within agricultural systems is demonstrated in Audobond Vermonts’s “Bird-Friendly Maple Project”. The project, which has been running since 2014, looks at new ways to manage sugar-bushes, or forests raised to produce maple products. It turns out that birds and maple production depend on the same thing: a healthy, diversified forest.

For birds, a monoculture of maple trees doesn’t provide habitats for tree specific bird species. A maple monoculture lacking a conifer component is unlikely to have species like blue-headed vireo, blackburnian warbler and sharp-shinned hawk. Besides habitats, Maple monocultures are missing food sources critical for migrating birds. Without fruiting trees and shrubs birds lack the fuel necessary to migrate long distances.

While it makes sense that bird species would thrive in a more diverse woodland, understanding how diversity promotes maple production is perhaps less intuitive. A University of Vermont Study found that sugarbushes with 25% non-maple trees experienced shorter and less intense insect outbreaks. Diversity is a key component of integrated pest management in any agro-ecological system. Varied habitats encourage beneficial species, natural enemies of pests, and offer general stability within the ecosystem.  

Just as increased species diversity creates stability in sugar-bushes, increased stakeholder diversity creates positive change in the food system. Increasing the number and diversity of stakeholders is a tactic often used to bring about change.

“Conservation of anything — birds, habitat, anything — requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” conservation biologist Steve Hagenbuch, who heads up Audubon Vermont’s Bird-Friendly Maple Project, told the Cornell Chronicle. “We can’t rely on protected areas, or even the goodwill of people interested in wildlife. We need to integrate [bird conservation] into our businesses, create financial incentives and encourage people to think about the role that their land management has in conservation.”

With this thought in mind, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is partnering with the Cornell Maple Program to develop bird-friendly sugar-bush management strategies. The collaboration will echo Audobond Vermonts’s project, with hopes to bring about both crop and bird health and sustainability. Bringing together the two large Cornell organizations multiplies the positive effects of each and will hopefully create a lasting positive impact on both bird populations and maple production in the area.

Read more about this exciting project in the spring 2019 issue of Living Bird magazine, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 12:00am
The Indiana Sheep Association will host a National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) educational seminar and farm tour June 15 at Tippecanoe Valley High School in Akron, and Hidden Valley Polypays Farm in Rochester.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 9:03am
A short covering rally on the horizon?
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 12:00am
Learn about innovative management strategies, new technologies for improving efficiency and productivity, and ways to help ensure a successful transition of the family farm to the next generation, at the 87th Annual Purdue Farm Management Tour, June 27-28.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 12:00am
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business will offer its Sales Management and Leadership workshop May 29–30 at the university’s West Lafayette campus.
Monday, April 22, 2019 - 1:26pm
Oliver Sloup joins RFD-TV to discuss his near term outlook for the grain and livestock markets.
Monday, April 22, 2019 - 10:00am

A beautiful array of specialty mushrooms sold at a farmers market including shiitake, oyster, and lions mane.
Willie Crosby / Small Farms Quarterly

The Cornell Small Farms Program’s project focused on specialty mushroom farming enterprises is launching a monthly webinar series highlighting the latest research and stories from experienced growers around the region. These free webinars will occur on the first Wednesday of each month, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, and will be recorded and posted for later viewing at www.CornellMushrooms.org and at the Small Farms Program YouTube channel.

The May webinar will include an overview of the project and available resources from extension specialists Steve Gabriel and Yolanda Gonzalez. Additionally, Renee Jacobson from Firefly Farm of Hornby, NY, will present results from a farmer grant she conducted trialing oyster cultivation on coffee grounds and sawdust. Join us!

Click here to sign up for the free webinars.

Specialty mushrooms are defined by USDA as any species not belonging to the genus Agaricus (button, crimini, portabella). The most common specialty mushrooms are shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and oyster (Pleuterous ostreatus), which represent the second and third most produced in the United States. Demand for specialty mushrooms is rapidly rising, as consumers look to purchase more foods that are healthy, nutritious, and medicinal. Production systems are scalable and highly adaptable to a wide range of farms in both rural and urban settings.

The project supports new and existing mushroom growers in all aspects of production, marketing, and sales through ongoing research and education efforts. The project website offers factsheets, videos, and free guidebooks as well as a directory of suppliers and a grower network email list. This material is combined with workshops and events to train growers in both indoor and outdoor production. Partners on the project include CCE Harvest NY, FarmSchool NYC, Just Food, Grow NYC, and Fungi Ally.

Learn more at: www.CornellMushrooms.org.

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