News Release – WASHINGTON, D.C – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced more than $8.6 million in available funding to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and self-reliant food systems. This funding is available through NIFA’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“This program is important because it reaches beyond short-term food relief,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “It integrates economic, social, and environmental impacts to form comprehensive solutions to problems across all food system levels.”
Inspiration comes from many directions, even from tragedy. That was the case for Randy Bekendam, proprietor of Amy’s Farm, a 10-acre farm located south of Ontario, California. Bekendam runs Amy’s Farm with Amy herself, who is also his daughter.
Originally a cattle farm, Bekendam was moved to make a change and do something to bring the community together after a 3-year-old boy was killed by a drive-by shooter in nearby Pomona. Bekendam’s idea? Bring everyone together to heal their neighborhoods by growing food as a community.
“When the little boy was shot, I had never planted anything. I was not a farmer, so with this vision of growing food to build community, maybe have an impact on gang violence, and bring urban farming to the city, I realized I better become a farmer,” he says.
Press Release – WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers. The program, called EZ Guarantee Loans, uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations.
“Over the past seven years, we have been transforming our loan programs at USDA so that they can be attainable and useful to all kinds and sizes of producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These EZ Guarantee Loans will help beginning and underserved farmers obtain the capital they need to get their operations off the ground, and they can also be helpful to those who have been farming for some time but need extra help to expand or modernize their operations. USDA’s Farm Service Agency has offices in nearly every county in the country, and we encourage all farmers, including those in urban areas, to stop in and inquire about this program.”
Press Release – WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced increased federal and private-sector support to expand and diversify the U.S. agricultural workforce by increasing opportunities in education, research and outreach. The announcement is part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Rural Council initiative, America the Bountiful, a collaboration with federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders to meet the growing demand for a skilled, diverse workforce in the rapidly evolving agricultural landscape.
“The face of American agriculture is changing,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Nearly 10 percent of U.S. jobs are related to agriculture and the increasingly complex nature of production requires more training and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM fields—to stay competitive and meet the needs of a growing world for food, fuel and fiber. A report by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University projects that over 22 thousand jobs in agriculture related fields may go unfilled every year through at least 2020. This is a great opportunity for smart, young people to start careers in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”
NEW YORK, Sept. 28, 2016 – At the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced more than $56 million in grants to strengthen local and regional food systems, support farmers markets, and fund organic research. Since 2009, USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local food businesses and infrastructure projects.
“Since this Administration launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative in 2009 to coordinate USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems, there has been a dramatic increase in consumer demand for buying local,” said Vilsack. “Over the years, we’ve seen how these new market opportunities are helping to drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship in rural communities, and expand food access and choice. This latest round of grants will expand the capacity of farmers and businesses to serve this growing market, help revitalize local economies around the country, and support efforts around the country to provide fresh, healthy food to all Americans.”