10.07.15

Leahy: Vermont Nets Federal Funds To Invest Nearly $650,000 In Local Foods Infrastructure

(WEDNESDAY, October 7, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says Vermont farmers markets and other outlets will receive five federal grants totaling $581,745 to support local and regional food systems.  The grants are part of $42.4 million granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to states and local organizations throughout the country.

Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was a leading author of the 2014 Farm Bill to authorize funding for local foods and value-added products, under these programs.

Leahy said:  “Vermont leads the country in support for local food.  It’s part of the Vermont way and the quality of life that we value in our state.  Vermont is a leader in locally sourced food, but obstacles remain, particularly for our smaller producers.  These bedrock investments will help expand programs that support family farms, open new farming opportunities and ensure that healthy, local foods are available to Vermonters of all income levels.”

He said five USDA grants are awarded to Vermont, leveraging a total of $641,570 in investments from local match funding.  Leahy announced that the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont) was awarded a three-year $247,000 grant from the USDA FNS Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Farmers Market Support Program.  NOFA-VT currently supports more than 45 farmers markets that have introduced the use of cash-assistance programs such as SNAP, also known as 3SquaresVT, to increase the opportunity for fresh produce to be purchased by limited-income Vermonters. This federal funding will increase SNAP accessibility and participation at markets like those in Randolph, which was also awarded $68,895 from the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program. 

The USDA AMS is awarding $73,750 and $99,990 in Local Food Promotion Program funding to the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link Inc. (RAFFL), and to Newport-based Green Mountain Farm-To-School, respectively.  These grants will help to improve marketing and promotion projects for local food enterprises such as food hubs, aggregation businesses, local food processors and farm-to-institution activities. 

Vermont’s congressional delegation -- Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) – wrote letters in support of the Green Mountain Farm-To-School and NOFA Vermont proposals to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

RAFFL Executive Director Tara Kelly added:  “We are thrilled that this grant will help to expand RAFFL’s online farmers market, Farm Fresh Connect, which has been in operation as a pilot for 3 years.  Our partnership with the Vermont Country Store and Green Mountain Power enables businesses to create a culture of wellness at worksites and schools as customers order local farm products from area producers.  It’s a win-win for employees looking to buy local, high-quality foods and farmers who need support in developing a year-round market.”

Leahy said the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (VAAFM), in partnership with Vermont Specialty Food Association, Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association and Vermont Fresh Network, was also awarded $92,200 through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program.  These funds will be used to enhance the ability of Vermont farmers and value-added producers to market, connect and efficiently distribute high-value products to regional and national consumers through improvements in distribution infrastructure, branding, social media campaigns and e-commerce.

Matt Gordon, Executive Director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association (VMSMA) said: “We are excited to partner with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Vermont Specialty Food Association, and the Vermont Fresh Network to help farmers and specialty food producers utilize new and emerging media to spread the word about the high quality products being made in Vermont.  With more recognition that maple syrup has far more uses than just pancakes and more people realizing that maple is one of the healthiest sweeteners, this project will help our membership leverage the heritage of Vermont’s maple industry and connect to important markets in exciting ways.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Awards Announced:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Farmers Market Support Program

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont): $247,000

Farmers Market Promotion Program

Randolph Farmer’s Market: $68,895

Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program

Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (VAAFM): $92,200

Local Food Promotion Program

Green Mountain Farm-to-School: $99,990 / Matching Amount: $37,146

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, Inc. (RAFFL): $73,750/ Matching Amount: $25,680

Total Federal Investment: $581,745

Total Investment Including Local Match: $641,571.00

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