It pains me to say it but there are some very real connections between BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and the recent "pink slime" fiasco that need to be aired. I am not saying that "pink slime" (lean finely textured beef or LFTB for short) represents anything like the public health hazard that potentially BSE-infected meat could represent. Regulations are now in place to ensure that specified risk material is removed from every beef carcass so it does not enter the human food chain, and that the feeding of ground-up cattle remains back to cattle has been banned since 1997. However, it's hard to ignore the fundamental similarities of the two incidents and, more importantly, the underlying circumstances and mindsets that led to the adoption in both cases of some highly questionable industry practices -- practices that most people would have almost certainly have opposed had they been given the chance.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has recently released a thirty-nine page summary of the various USDA grant programs relating to local and regional food systems. The new Guide to USDA Funding for Local and Regional Food Systems is a comprehensive, digestible and highly relevant piece that outlines the major funding programs available to farmers, nonprofits, associations, individuals, schools and others working towards successful local and regional food systems. The handy “quick guide” chart on page 4 details each program’s eligibility requirements, grant amounts and any matching funds needed. Eligibility is further explained in each program description, including helpful hints about who the programs are really targeting. When applying for a grant it can be tempting to try to fit a square peg into a round hole in terms of eligibility – this guide is a great resource to make sure you are barking up the right tree. Other features include a resource section (regional and national), a how-to-guide for the application process (Appendix 1: Preparing to Apply to USDA Grant Programs using Grants.gov) and case studies of successful applications. Contact information for each program is listed along with sources for more information.
This is not the dry, legalese grants guide of a dusty bureaucrat – this is written with the genuine goal of improving our access to good, healthy food and assisting the people and organizations working towards that goal. This guide is a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in funding a food systems project. This is NSAC’s first edition and they have done a brilliant job – we look forward to more!