Minnesota Department of Agriculture asks public to weigh in on food purchase assistance program

Taxpayers have until Dec. 12 to tell the Minnesota Department of Agriculture how they want it to distribute $3.16 million in grants through a community food procurement and distribution program.

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its Agricultural Marketing Service signed an agreement with Minnesota under the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program. The American Rescue Plan authorizes the program to maintain and improve supply chain resiliency, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Sept. 7 news release said. The program’s goal is to buy local food from socially disadvantaged farmers and distribute it to the state’s underserved communities. Nationally, the USDA is awarding up to $400 million to states and Tribal governments to buy food from producers in the state or within 400 miles of delivery destination.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture said in the draft Request for Applications that it plans to award about $2.125 million in grants in spring 2023. The funding could go to about 21 to 40 entities, depending on the size of the awards. The department proposed distributing a second round of funding for the remaining $1.035 million. Entities must spend funding by Sept. 15, 2024.

Minnesotans who would like to provide feedback can join a virtual input session or complete a 13-question online form by 5 p.m. Dec. 12, the department’s Nov. 18 Request for Information announcement said. Responses are public. Anyone with questions about the Request for Information process should email [email protected] or call Minnesota Department of Agriculture Food & Feed Safety Alexandra Cortes at 651-895-0315 by 8 a.m. Dec. 12.

Input sessions are scheduled for 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30, noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 1, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Dec. 7 and 1 to 2 p.m. Dec. 8. The department asked those who plan to attend a session to review the draft application ahead of time.

Anyone who would like interpretation services needs to make that request at least one week ahead of the session date, the input session description said. Individuals with disabilities who need accommodation should contact Cortes as soon as possible at 651-895-0315, [email protected] or 711. They can also call the department, at 651-201-6000.

The department said feedback will inform the final application process for the program, which it plans to release by February 2023.

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