Learn more about USDA’s $400m investment in resilient food systems

State governments can now apply for Cooperative Agreements to buy locally produced food to supply communities facing food insecurity. Application deadline has been extended to May 6th!

In December 2021, USDA announced a new program, the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (that’s a mouthful, so we’ll call it LFPA for now) that aims to maintain and improve food supply chain resiliency. The program will award up to $400 million through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to support local, regional, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through the purchase and distribution of local food to underserved communities.

While food hubs and community based organizations can’t apply directly to USDA for the funding, you can partner with State agencies and Tribal governments to ensure that the programs they design are expanding economic opportunity for local and disadvantaged producers, and providing healthy food to those who need it. The best course of action right now is to figure out which State agency or tribal government is taking the lead here and reach out to them to see how you can partner and support them in creating an equitable and practical proposal. More on that below.

This program is an example of the Biden Administration’s desire to increase resiliency in food supply chains and to use USDA’s food procurement dollars strategically to that end. How well this effort goes will have important consequences for other USDA supply chain and direct food spending programs, including for school meals. It will also impact farm bill discussions, with success creating an opportunity for serious reforms to USDA programs. 

We highly recommend you read the entire Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program RFA closely. USDA is continuing to update the FAQ, so take a close look at those as well.

FSLN partner Kate Fitzgerald provides an excellent summary of the LFPA program, process, deadlines, definitions, and FAQ in this document and you can click here for all of the notes and resources we have been compiling.

Calls and Resources to Support Successful LFPA Implementation

This is a new and exciting opportunity, and the Wallace Center team is learning alongside you in real time about what it is all about. We’ll continue sharing learnings and convening food systems practitioners around the LFPA program to ask questions, share strategies, and offer insight into the program as it progresses.

  • LFPA Office Hours: Everyone is simultaneously trying to figure out how to make this work, and there’s so much wisdom in this community. Tap into it via bi-weekly office hours, hosted by your fearless facilitators over here at the Wallace Center. We’ll hold an informal space every other week for workshopping challenges, sharing what’s working, and just commiserating with each other because this is tricky! Register here.
    • Thursday, Feb. 10 at 2 EST / 11 PST
    • Thursday, Feb. 24 at 2 EST / 11 PST
    • Thursday, March 10 at 2 EST/11 PST
  • LFPA Connections Directory: Enter your contact information here and start connecting with partners and collaborators in your state and region who might also be involved in the LFPA. The directory can be found here.
  • Models, Recommendations and Strategies Session: Learn from people on the ground who are creating promising LFPA partnerships, and hear some recommendations about how to best influence and support state’s applications. Notes and resources from that call can be found here.
  • LFPA Strategies & Recommendations Survey: Are you connecting with partners and state agencies to ensure the program is meeting the needs of marginalized farmers and communities facing food insecurity? Share your story in this survey to strengthen our collective understanding of what’s working and where support is needed to make sure that this opportunity can create transformative change.
  • December 2021 Call: Overview of the LFPA with Elizabeth Lober, Assistant to the Deputy Administrator at USDA Commodity Procurement. Elizabeth walks through an overview of the program and answers lots of questions from the audience. Notes from the call can be found here and the recording is below.

Some important details from the RFA:

  • The applications will initially need to come from State and Tribal Government entities. State agriculture, human services or education agencies are the most likely departments to apply.
  • The applications will be accepted on a rolling basis so states can submit plans as soon as they are ready with a final (extended) deadline of May 6th, 2022.
  • States and tribal government applicants can subcontract or subaward with partners and collaborators, which can come from private or public, for-profit, or nonprofit entities. Many, if not most states, do not have systems in place to purchase from small and BIPOC producers and most have procurement regulations that can make purchases difficult for criteria other than low price. We anticipate that state/tribal agencies will need to partner with groups like yours to ensure this program achieves its goals.
  • The RFA emphasizes the importance of support for local, regional farmers/producers and for “socially disadvantaged” farmers/producers. They also require that the applications show evidence of existing community or industry support and engagement. This is the big opportunity to get this funding to people who need it in your state! If you are already working with and have relationships with socially disadvantaged farmers and underserved communities, coordinating with the entities in your state that are applying can help strengthen the application.
  • States have been allocated a budget ceiling for the application based on a TEFAP formula. Exact allocations are on page 7-9 of the RFA. The allocation is for two years and initially only 60% of the funds for each state will be allocated to ensure that tribal governments do not get short-changed.
  • The “predominance” of the budget must be used to procure food. However, costs associated with outreach, program development, program administration, food storage, and distribution expenses are allowable, as are sub-agreements. Equipment like buildings and trucks can’t be purchased with this funding, but can be rented for the length of the project. There are other USDA grants that can support infrastructure, including the FNS Reach and Resiliency Grant.
  • State and tribal level procurement rules and policies govern these purchases— not federal ones. This means that restrictions around pricing and food safety will be determined at the state and tribal government level, so some advocacy may be required to whatever agency is doing the purchasing.
  • This is a non-competitive process, i.e. states are entitled to their pre-determined funding. Once the applications are in, AMS will work with applicants to negotiate any revisions because this is a coop agreement, not a grant. If there is funding left over after the initial funding is awarded, USDA will consider awards to local governments.
  • Funds allocated for a state that are not applied for will be made available to other states that demonstrate that they can use the funds effectively.

How can you get involved?

Right now, the most important thing you can do is figure out which agency in your state is applying and get in touch with them to make sure your community’s assets and needs are represented in their application. Local and state food and farm policy groups can also be excellent conduits for information and connections to public agencies. If you do not know any in your area you can check on the Food Policy Network website .

Everyone is on a learning curve together here and we’ll do our best to update this page with helpful information as we get it. The RFA and other associated materials from USDA are pretty comprehensive so if you’re interested in getting in the game, we recommend reading through it closely.

Share what’s happening in your state to help target support and amplify successful strategies.

For more information from USDA:

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