Today Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt and dozens of farmers from across central New Jersey as part of the Congressman’s Agriculture and Nutrition Policy Day. The Deputy Secretary spoke to a diverse group of farmers about USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative and the Department’s newest efforts to promote farm to school programs across the country. After an informative presentation from the OneTray foundation, Congressman Holt kicked off the day’s activities with an enthusiastic welcome, acknowledging the real stars of the show, the men and women in the audience who work the land every day.
Merrigan cited First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and Congressman Holt’s recently-introduced legislation, the Farm to School Improvements Act, to underscore the great interest and excitement throughout the country surrounding farm to school (F2S) efforts. USDA is deploying USDA’s Farm to School Team to school districts across the nation to glean successes and challenges gained from current F2S efforts.
Merrigan then highlighted several of the programs available to farmers in New Jersey and across the country. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, for example, received over $650,000 last year through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, including $40,000 to partner with the Northeast Organic Farming Association in New Jersey on business training for new organic farmers. Another $121,000 through USDA Rural Development Value Added Producer Grant went to a South Jersey farmer to package and market his premium wines. These projects reflect the great diversity of agriculture in the Garden State- the main reason why the Deputy Secretary chose NJ’s Rutgers University as the site to kick off the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food College Tour back in September.