USDA awards $15 million for farmers' market program

OMAHA, Nebraska, Posted March 2, 2005 (DTN): Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the fiscal year 2005 Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) grant awards to 47 state agencies and tribal organizations to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for fresh produce at farmers' markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs.

"These grants will provide low-income seniors the opportunity to enrich their diets with highly nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables," said Johanns. "Local farmers benefit from the program as well by attracting more customers to their markets for farm fresh products."

The 2002 Farm Bill authorizes and provides $15 million annually to operate the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program for fiscal years 2003 through 2007. All 47 grantees that operated this program in FY 2004 will continue to operate the program during the 2005 season.

The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program provides fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs to low-income seniors, as well as increases the consumption of agricultural commodities. Through this increased consumption, the SFMNP will help expand or develop farmers' markets and other agricultural commodity outlets.

These grants are expected to serve over 800,000 low-income senior citizens nationwide, an increase from FY 2004. Coupons to purchase fresh produce this year will be accepted by over 13,000 farmers at nearly 4,000 markets, roadside stands or community-supported agriculture programs.