The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Montana under the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA). Through LFPA, the Montana Department of Agriculture seeks to purchase and distribute locally grown, produced, and processed food from underserved producers.
“USDA is excited to partner with Montana to promote economic opportunities for farmers and producers and to increase access to locally sourced, fresh, healthy, and nutritious food in underserved communities,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food Purchase Cooperative Agreement Program will improve food and agricultural supply-chain resiliency and increase local food consumption around the country.”
Through the LFPA project the Montana Department of Agriculture will help ensure most of the food produced in Montana stays with its residents by partnering with statewide organizations to increase distribution of local food from and to underserved communities and by establishing long-term buyer-seller relationships with underserved communities that will grow the local food economy.
“This is a win-win for Montana Agriculture,” said Montana Department of Agriculture Director Christy Clark. “The USDA Local Food Purchase Assistance program will bolster our state supply chains and deliver nutritious, locally-grown food to families across our state.”
The LFPA program is authorized by the American Rescue Plan to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency. Through this program, USDA will award up to $400 million through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to support local, regional, and underserved producers through the purchase of food produced within the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination.
While Montana is a large producer of commodity crops the availability of locally grown food products is limited in supply. USDA says this is largely an issue of challenging weather conditions and lack of scale among purchasers. Because Montana is predominantly underserved due to its rural character, USDA and the Montana Department of Ag are hoping to use LFPA as a tool to ensure that more Montana food ends up on the plates of Montanans, but also to initiate long term buyer-seller relationships that will grow the local food economy.
Through this project the Montana Department of Agriculture will sub-award funds to organizations statewide to increase the distribution of local food from and to underserved constituencies, and to facilitate the establishment of business relationships between underserved farmers and food purchasers in underserved communities. The primary objective of sub awardees will be to identify or organize producers or groups of producers in sizes to provide sufficient volume and capacity to serve underserved areas.
Once producer groups are identified, funding will be used to supplement the cost of distributing food into underserved communities. The objective in supplementing food purchases is to connect underserved producers with underserved communities, while also working to establish business relationships that will carry on into the future. Montana Department of Agriculture will facilitate the collection of best practices for dissemination to other underserved producers and communities.
The department’s goal is that at least 25% of matched sellers and buyers will establish long term, sustainable, business relationships.
AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program that allows state and tribal governments to procure and distribute local and regional foods and beverages that are healthy, nutritious, and unique to their geographic area. More information about the program is available on AMS’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program webpage