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Harnessing Forest Service Programs to Support Local and Regional Food Systems

When people think about USDA they usually think of the Farm Service Agency loan officer helping a farmer finance a new tractor, the Extension agent explaining the latest research to a rancher, or the Rural Development employee bringing broadband to a rural community.  But few would realize our largest agency is not directly responsible for our farms, but rather our forests.

The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forests and range lands, and helps States, Tribes, and communities manage an additional 500 million acres – together about 30% of the United States!  Through its work in managing and protecting these lands the Forest Service also plays a critical, even if often overlooked, role in local and regional food systems.

When we launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative,  I asked each agency to take a realistic look at their programs for opportunities to better support farmers trying to access local and regional markets.  Since then, we have been excited to be able to share details and concrete examples of how programs in our Rural Development and Research, Education, and Economics mission areas and the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Agricultural Marketing Service agencies are able to do so.

For more details on how Forest Service programs can support communities in building local and regional food systems, click here.

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