On March 1, 2010, the USDA published a notice in the Federal Register that $5 million in grants will be available for the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). So farmers and advocates in the Tampa Bay area are encouraged to apply for funds to either help an existing farmers market or to establish a new one.
These grants vary from $2,500 to $100,000 and these funds are designed to help increase the producer to consumer food availability throughout the United States. Farmers Markets allow local farmers a venue to sell what they produce on their farms to the local community. The FMPP concentrates on educating and providing opportunities for consumers to be able to obtain whole, natural foods that were grown locally as a part of the national sustainability campaign.
The application, this year, emphasizes bringing new farmers to farmers markets and improving access to local food in under-served rural communities. According to the US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, only 5 to 10 percent of the farmers in the Tampa Bay area participate in direct to consumer sales, which adds up to only 1 percent of total farm sales being sold locally. Of course this may be due to the fact that there are less than .05 farmers markets per 1,000 people in our area and Pinellas County is the only county that currently has a direct to schools program (local farmers selling their food products to schools).
The 2008 Farm Bill added a provision to the existing Farm Bill that allows 10 percent of FMPP funds to be spent on equipping markets with machines that are necessary to allow the markets to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamp) sales. These funds were set aside to provide a way for low and middle income families to enjoy the same benefits of being able to buy their foods fresh and locally as those consumers who use their cash. Without these machines, these markets would not be able to sell to consumers who need to use these funds to purchase their food. In the Tampa Bay area, between 20 and 30 percent of our population use the SNAP program.
There are two new tools available this year, the FMPP Pre-Application Guide for 2010 and a FMPP grant-writing PowerPoint presentation to help those who are interested in applying for funds. Proposals are due on April 15, 2010 and late applications will not be considered. Access an application packet at the USDA website.
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