April 5, 2006
Consumer demand for fresh, locally grown products has sparked a renewed interest among producers in direct markets. More and more farmers and ranchers are recognizing that by selling their products directly to consumers and businesses, they are able to capture more of the revenue stream. Farmers’ markets have played a central role in bringing consumers and producers into contact. Since 1994, the number of farmers’ markets in the country has more than doubled.
While sales figures at many of the nation’s 3,900 farmers’ markets continue to rise, additional assistance is needed to develop infrastructure, create business plans and expand marketing opportunities. Thankfully, help is on the way.
The USDA recently announced that it will award approximately $1 million in competitive grants under the Farmers Markets Promotion Program (FMPP). This is the first year that funds have been made available for the program. The FMPP was created to help improve and expand farmers’ markets, roadside stands, community supported agriculture operations and other direct market opportunities.
Instead of providing funding directly to producers, the FMPP seeks to address direct marketing needs at the community level. Individual producers are not eligible for the program. Agricultural cooperatives, local governments, nonprofits, public benefit corporations, regional and farmers’ markets authorities are among the types of entities eligible to apply for funding on behalf of producers. Funds can be used to fund projects that provide innovative approaches to market opportunities and management, improve access to marketing and financial information, or increase consumer education and market access.
American Farmland Trust (AFT) has long support our nation’s farmers’ markets. AFT recently joined forces with 33 other groups to send a letter to House Appropriators urging them to fund the FMPP at $5 million in FY 07. Read the sign-on letter [PDF]. Farmers’ markets and direct marketing opportunities also play a central role in AFT’s campaign to develop new farm policies for the 2007 Farm Bill. AFT is exploring new policy options that expand opportunities for farm and ranch profitability by supporting the development of new markets and products.
More information: AMS@USDA Farmers Market Direct-to-Consumers Web site, FMPP Notice of Funds Availability, AFT's Farm Policy Campaign