Local food security and maple farming part of USDA investment efforts

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Local food security and maple farming part of USDA investment efforts

The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) is increasing its efforts to explore new markets, like maple farming, and bring equity and financial stability to small farms across the country. 

The department announced that up to $12 million in funding is available through three new grants programs: The Acer Access and Development Program, the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, and the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program. Each will be administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). 

Maple market

According to Tricia Kovacs, the Deputy Administrator for the Transportation and Marketing Program at AMS, the grants aim to “strengthen and explore new market opportunities and increase access to locally grown food in communities experiencing food insecurity. 

“The Acer Access and Development Program is the one that might seem most mysterious based on its title,” she said. “Acer is the genus of the maple tree. The program will fund projects that help promote and sustain the U.S. maple industry.” 

That grant is the one with the most funding, up to $6 million, and is available for producers and landowners in the maple syrup and sugar industry. 

The United States is the second largest producer of maple syrup in the world, yet it has a long way to go in comparison to Canada, the largest producer. 

In January 2024, U.S maple sugar and maple syrup exports were valued at $4.81 million, and mostly went to Mexico, Canada and New Zealand. However, the United States still imports most of its maple products from Canada, with $26.8 million coming from the trading partner. 

The program will fund projects that might further awareness of natural resource sustainability practices affecting the maple industry and its products, advance producer knowledge, and help sustain and market the U.S. maple syrup industry. 

Other opportunities

The second most funded program is the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program. That initiative offers $5 million in available funding to agriculture agencies across the country to increase the “quantity and quality of locally grown food in food insecure communities through small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations.” 

The funding is provided to departments of agriculture in Alaska, Hawaii and U.S territories, representing the largest importers of food. “This program is designed to be able to invest in state’s smaller-scale operations,” Kovacs explained, “small-scale gardening, herding and livestock operations that might not be able to get larger grants.” 

The smallest grant area, the Federal State Marketing Program, was created to increase the efficiency and performance of the food marketing system within the United States. This program exists to tackle marketing barriers for farmers across all sectors of agriculture.

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