Editors Note: The Center for Rural Affairs writes a weekly column for distribution to newspapers across the country. View our weekly columns here or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the distribution list. This week's column appears below.
Recently 23 projects were selected to receive a combined $900,000 in Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grants. Nationally over 300 projects were submitted. While many states did not receive anything at all, several large cities received multiple grants. Of the funded projects, only one was for a farmers market in a rural community.
It’s apparent that this program is biased towards urban markets. Larger, established farmers markets in urban centers have more participants; some even have staff and administrative services from city government or other sources. It stands to reason, therefore, that they would have better luck accessing federal grants.
It would be great to have access to more farmers markets in rural areas. And for the rural farmers markets that currently exist, it would be wonderful if they could receive assistance on things such as marketing, and credit/debit technology.
The Farmers Market Promotion Program does not get much press therefore the public is generally unaware of the program’s existence. It’s also difficult to get application assistance.
Congress is currently considering increasing their investment in the Farmers Market Promotion Program as part of the 2007 farm bill, as well they should. USDA should also make it a priority to help rural communities access the program so rural farmers markets can have an opportunity to benefit from these grants as well. This could help rebuild rural food systems and give rural Americans better choices for spending their food dollar.