WASHINGTON, May 1, 2015—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the annual USDA Farmers Market today, marking the 20th year of the market’s operation outside of USDA headquarters in Washington.
He said the market “is part of a strategy we’ve embraced at USDA to promote local and regional food products.” The more than 8,000 farmers markets in the country provide opportunities for new and beginning farmers, as well as veterans interested in farming, Vilsack said.
Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo, who gave opening remarks at USDA’s market, said it has doubled in size this year, from 15 to 30 vendors. She thanked several local sponsors, including DC Central Kitchen, Union Kitchen and DC Greens.
In addition to the farmers market that is open every Friday, May - October (except July 3), from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., USDA is offering a night market this year from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the third Friday of every month.
Vilsack said May 14 is the deadline for producers interested in selling produce at farmers markets to apply for grants through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) programs authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.
He also noted an increasing number of farmers markets across the country that take food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“I’m proud that [USDA] has worked aggressively to make the opportunity that farmers market provide available for all Americans,” Vilsack said.
USDA has awarded $31.5 million in funding last month to organizations with programs that help SNAP increase their purchase of fruits and vegetables. The grants were made through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com