USDA AMS Grant Programs Evaluation and Applicant Technical Assistance with Underserved Community Focus

USDA Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) Grant Programs are designed to support the economic development for communities and commodities by funding projects that enhance the marketability and competitiveness of U.S. agricultural products. AMS has partnered with Florida A&M University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore on a project to evaluate the accessibility of AMS Grant Programs* to all U.S. agricultural farmers, ranchers, fishers and businesses, with a focus on socially disadvantaged individuals and communities. The goals of this project include:

  1. evaluating barriers to AMS grant opportunities for socially disadvantaged communities
  2. investing in building trust and confidence between these communities and the USDA
  3. taking action to rectify inequalities in program access through targeted outreach, training, and technical assistance.

This project centers the voices of these communities through listening sessions conducted in cooperation with a nationwide network of universities, community organizations, and food system practitioners. Participants will share their experiences and discuss their needs along with any barriers they have faced. The knowledge gained from these discussions will be used to develop training materials, technical assistance programs, and other resources.

We are actively recruiting Co-Leaders to join this network and conduct listening sessions in their communities! Co-Leaders and listening session participants will both receive stipends for their time and effort. We are also looking for previous grant application reviewers to participate in listening sessions to offer their perspective on the review process. The network is divided geographically between Florida A&M University (Southern States) and University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Northern States) as demonstrated in this map. Individuals, organizations, and universities interested in participating as either Co-leaders or listening session participants should contact the corresponding project lead:

Florida A&M University (Southern States):

Dr. Jennifer Taylor
FAMU project website

University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Northern States):

Dr Virginie Zoumenou
UMES project website

For any additional information or questions, please reach out to the USDA AMS project leads.

Yvette Garcia
Agricultural Marketing Specialist

Samantha Schaffstall
Agricultural Marketing Specialist

View the Evaluating USDA AMS Grant Programs Successes and Challenges Project Flyer (pdf)

*AMS Grants that are the primary focus of this project include Famers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Regional Food System Partnership Grant and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, though all experiences with AMS Grants are valuable and the project team welcomes discussion of experiences with all AMS programs.