(June 11) The number of farmers markets has doubled since 1994, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says increased nutrition program funding from the farm bill should provide an important revenue stream in the years ahead.

“Farmers markets will continue to expand, benefiting both farmers and consumers,” Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman said in a June 7 news release.

She said farmers markets have a significant role in the USDA’s efforts to encourage healthier eating and nutrition. Notably, the USDA’s Farmers Market Nutrition Programs provide coupons to low-income mothers and children through the Women, Infant and Children’s program to be used for fresh produce and the Senior Farmers Market Pilot Project helps provide seniors with access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We are pleased to announce that the 2002 farm bill provided an additional $20 million for both senior and WIC farmers markets, bringing the total funding for FY 2002 to $40 million. Through these programs, WIC moms and their children, as well as our senior citizens, will be able to improve their diets by adding fresh produce to their meals” Veneman said in the news release.

The additional $20 million will be distributed to states in mid-June. This season the WIC Farmer’s Market will operate in 36 States, 5 Indian Tribal Organization, Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The Senior Farmer’s Market Program will operate in 34 States, one Indian Tribal Organization and the District of Columbia.