WASHINGTON, D.C. -- USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service will award new competitive grants to help expand opportunities for direct producer-to-consumer marketing.

"USDA is committed to helping our nation's agricultural producers find innovative ways to enhance their economic opportunities," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner. "This new grant program, which supports direct-to-consumer marketing, will help to deliver consumers farm-fresh, affordable, convenient and healthy products, while helping our farmers supplement their income."

The grants, authorized by the Farmers Market Promotion Program, are targeted to help improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.

Entities eligible to apply include agricultural cooperatives, local governments, nonprofit corporations, public benefit corporations, economic development corporations, regional farmers market authorities and Tribal governments.

The FMPP was authorized through a recent amendment to the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976. There is approximately $1 million allocated for fiscal year 2006, with no single proposal allowed to receive more than $75,000.

Instructions to apply for a grant are available in the March 15 issue of the Federal Register, and in the FMPP guidelines on the AMS Web site. AMS must receive applications and proposals no later than close of business on May 1. Applications received after May 1 will not be considered.

SOURCE: USDA news release.