1. What’s the LFPA program?

The Local Food Purchase Assistance Program is a cooperative agreement between US Department of Agriculture and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The goal of the program is to maintain and improve food supply chain resiliency and support local, regional, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by buying local foods and distributing them to underserved communities.

SCDA aims to use this federal program to help South Carolina farmers scale up, find new markets, and connect with distributors, strengthening the local food system now and in the future.

2. How much money was SCDA awarded under this agreement?

SCDA and the Catawba Nation collaborated on the program application and were awarded $6.1 million. SCDA is responsible for administering $4.7 million of that total.

3. What is the definition of “socially disadvantaged”?

USDA defines a socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher as a farmer or rancher who has been subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, or disability.

SCDA relies on socially disadvantaged farmers to self-identify. Here are some examples of producers who could meet the definition of socially disadvantaged:

  • A Black farmer
  • A Hispanic farmer
  • A veteran farmer who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • A woman farmer

4. Do you have to be a socially disadvantaged producer to participate in the LFPA program?

Purchasing from socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers is not a requirement of the LFPA program, but it is a target. We will make every effort to bring socially disadvantaged producers into the program and encourage aggregators to purchase from them. However, aggregators may also purchase from non-socially disadvantaged producers as needed.

5. What farm products are eligible under this program? What products are you looking for?

Food purchases are not limited to fresh produce. Any food or beverage product that meets the definition for domestic and local are permissible. This includes processed products and seafood. Local is defined as within the state or within 400 miles of the distribution point. However, starting on June 30, 2024, the federal requirements become more stringent and only for allow fresh and minimally processed food to be purchased and distributed.

6. Do farms have to be Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified to participate?

Not necessarily. Some, but not all aggregators, may require GAP certification. However, if you are not GAP certified, SCDA will help connect you with aggregators that do not require GAP certification. If you are interested in becoming GAP certified, SCDA offers training and resources along with cost share grants to alleviate the financial burden. You can find more information about our GAP certification resources here.

7. I’m a farmer. How do I apply to participate in the LFPA program?

Please follow this link for the producer registration form. Once a farmer has completed and submitted the form, they will be added to a live database that all participating aggregators can access.  The live database will not be shared publicly online and will only be made available to our participating aggregators.

8. What’s an aggregator?

Aggregators are agricultural businesses or cooperatives of growers that consolidate and distribute agricultural products. They typically support regional growers of diverse sizes and experience, and sell products to local or regional markets.

9. What are the requirements for being an aggregator?

Aggregator applicants must demonstrate that they are able to purchase, aggregate, store, transport, and distribute locally grown, raised, or caught agricultural food products to be delivered to underserved communities in South Carolina. [For a full list of requirements, please see the aggregator application form.]

10. Can my company or organization still apply to be an aggregator?

Aggregator applications are accepted on a rolling basis. However, at this time, additional applicants will only be approved on an “as-needed” basis. If an aggregator spot opens up and your application is approved, SCDA will contact you.

11. How does SCDA decide how much money to allocate to each aggregator?

For the first quarter, available funds were divided evenly among all aggregators. Future quarter amounts may be adjusted based on each aggregator’s ability to spend allocated funds.

12. How can my organization become a food distribution point under this program?

Please complete the Partner Distributor Registration Form if you are a South Carolina nonprofit organization, school, or other group engaged in food distribution and you are interested in participating in the Local Food Purchase Assistance Program. Your information will be used to build a database for outreach and to connect you with participating aggregators. Please note that this is not a commitment and donation arrangements will be negotiated directly between partner distributors and aggregators.

13. How long will the LFPA program continue?

The original grant was structured to end June 30, 2024. That would have allowed six calendar quarters to execute all the funds initially allocated. LFPA Plus is a second round of funding and adds an additional year to the program, extending operations until June 30, 2025.

14. What communities are eligible to receive LFPA purchased food?  Where may Partner Distributors distribute LFPA food?

LFPA purchased food must be distributed in underserved communities. The term “underserved communities” refers to populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.

Practically, this means food may be distributed in 24 South Carolina underserved counties. Those counties were identified based on their unemployment, poverty rates, rural classification, remote classification, and current distribution of food. Those counties are Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Cherokee, Clarendon, Colleton, Dillon, Edgefield, Georgetown, Greenwood, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, McCormick, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Union, and Williamsburg counties.

Outside of the 24 counties listed above, food may be distributed in any area of South Carolina that meets the definition of an underserved community.

15. What percentage of funding is required to be spent on food purchases?

Aggregators must spend at least 70% of the total allocated funding on food purchases and may spend up 30% of the total allocated funds on transportation, storage, and administrative expenses. However, if an aggregator does not require the full 30%, those funds can be reallocated for food purchases. However, unspent food purchase money may not be reallocated for transportation, storage, and administrative expenses.