Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a statement announcing the recipients of 22 matching grants for an array of research topics.

In a press release the USDA explained, “These grants focus on developing agricultural marketing strategies for an array of projects including eight local/regional food projects, two bio-energy projects, a farm-to-school project, and a food safety for direct marketers project.”

A number of these projects, including those in Georgia ($63,275), Montana ($62,485), Maryland ($100,620), and Kentucky ($38,550) focus on collecting market research for locally produced beef.

Two separate grants are intended to focus solely on expanding farmers markets. These research grants have been awarded to Maryland ($20,825) and Massachusetts ($38,870).

Additionally, one grant awarded to New Jersey for $51,000 will develop new, healthier food choices for school lunches. “The state is considering developing portion-controlled products such as fresh-cut fruit and vegetable snacks, and beverages, soups, entrees, and desserts that use New Jersey fruits and vegetables,” reported The Packer.  These are among the ideas flying around about increasing the locally grown produce served in New Jersey school lunches.

At least three of the USDA grants are solely focused on food safety issues. The first is in Kentucky ($38,690) and it is intended, “to determine best practices for sampling food products at farmers markets, explore how food product sampling can enhance vendor revenue, and publish a food product sampling guidebook for market managers and vendors.” The second grant has been awarded to New York ($58,555) and involves the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets working along side the Farmers Market Federation of New York and the Cornell University Extension Service, “to develop practical direct marketing food safety protocols and compile comprehensive case studies to demonstrate best practices for safe food handling.” Lastly, Mississippi received a grant for $43,690 to conduct a pilot project, “to develop and deliver a quality control training program for small farmers and limited-resource cooperatives in Mississippi.”

In total over $1.3 million were awarded to the 22 research proposals in 18 states. The grants were provided under the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program.