FMC Responds to FMPP Proposed Rule

By: Stacy Miller       Posted On: March 15, 2011

On January 19th, a notice was filed in the Federal Register soliciting input on the proposed Farmers Market Promotion Program Regulation.  This rule  establishes eligibility and application requirements, the review and approval processs, and grant administration procedures.  The announcement asks for comments on various aspects of the grant program, information-collection burden on applicants and reviewers, and “ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected.”  As the grant program ramps up to $10 million in 2011, it’s critically important that the farmers market community weigh in on potential improvements that could maximize outcomes for farmers while building capacity in market organizations. In today’s economic and political climate, it’s our responsibility to ensure that these grants are maximizing their potential for positive and far-reaching impact. That is the only way we’ll successfully make the case for future FMPP funding in 2013 and beyond.

Today, the Farmers Market Coalition submitted a letter to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service responding to the proposed rule. The whole letter is viewable here, but here are the major points:

1) FMPP should revise its definition of farmers markets to stress that locally-grown food sold directly by the agricultural producers themselves is the predominant feature.

2) FMPP should create (or fund the creation of) a searchable database of awards, including those currently outstanding, so that the entire farmers market community, including prospective grantees, can easily see what’s been funded in their states or areas of interest.  There is precedece for this in several other grant programs, including SARE and Community Food Projects (NIFA).

3) FMPP Reviewer Conflict of Interest policies should be revised to allow for volunteers, board members, and potential sub-awardees to participate in the review process, provided they fully disclose such potential conflicts of interest and are not responsible for reviewing those respective proposals, highly similar proposals, or ones from their same state.

4) FMPP Policy on Consecutive Awards should be changed to eliminate the 12 month waiting period between submission of of a grantee’s final reports and date of re-application. Prohibiting nonconsecutive awards is itself a stringent enough rule for this high-demand program.

5) Five to ten percent of the total value of FMPP awards in a given year should be allocated to state, regional, and national-level technical assistance that helps build the professional capacity of farmers markets and ensure long-term viability.

Opportunities to officially weigh in on these kinds of improvements only come around every few years. Those who have ever applied for, received, reviewed, or hope to get an FMPP grant, are encouraged to submit their own comments before the March 21st deadline.