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Deputy Secretary Merrigan Addresses Kansas City Business Council, Meets Stakeholders, Concerning Sustainability and Food Systems

Kansas Rural Development State Director Patty Clark addresses stakeholders at a meeting to foster and support the Northeast Kansas/Kansas City Regional Food Initiative.

Kansas Rural Development State Director Patty Clark addresses stakeholders at a meeting to foster and support the Northeast Kansas/Kansas City Regional Food Initiative.

The Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City recently hosted an “Agricultural Sustainability Forum” at the legendary American Royal facilities in the historic Kansas City Stockyards district.  Among the featured speakers was USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

As farm families began to transport their livestock to the world renowned American Royal, and hundreds of contestants began setting up grills and smokers for the famous KC Royal BBQ Competition, the location and activities underscored Merrigan’s message of the importance of emphasizing “the commonalities, rather than the differences, between food production systems in America.”

In her speech, Merrigan accentuated that our American food system must “serve the triple bottom line of profit, people and the planet in order to deliver sustainability.”

Sara Wyant, President of Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc. further reinforced the message as she described the three pillars of sustainable food systems – “social, environmental and economic.”

On the heels of the Agricultural Sustainability Forum in Kansas City, USDA Rural Development, FSA and NRCS hosted the first convening of stakeholders to foster and support the Northeast Kansas/Kansas City Regional Food Initiative. The purpose of the initiative is “to build a local/regional food system that increases both productivity and profitability for family farmers who supply fresh foods to populations in the metro areas of Kansas City/Lawrence/Topeka as well as to rural populations.  Special emphasis will be given to improved nutrition for lower -income families, addressing food deserts in the region and improvement of watersheds through more sustainable farming practices.”  This stated purpose also underscores the deputy secretary’s message of the triple bottom line of food systems including “profit, people and planet.”

The initiative’s stakeholders represent local, state and federal agencies, non-profits, producer groups, university faculty, cooperatives and research partners.  Action teams, rooted in the elements of a food system – production to aggregation and transportation through marketing and consumption – were developed in order to create a strategic plan for the initiative and the region.  USDA Rural Development is working to create a website stakeholders can use share action team meeting announcements, agendas and working notes as well as share and edit documents as they make progress with the initiative.

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