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USDA 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Making Locally Grown Food More Available

Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass.  Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.

Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass. Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.

As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve talked with more and more consumers who want a personal relationship with their food and are demanding to know more about it, where it came from and how it got to their plate.  I’ve also talked with more and more producers who see the growing market demand for local food as a ripe business opportunity.  One of USDA’s goals is to connect the two.

We know that the local foods business is booming. For instance, a recent study by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reported that marketing of local foods by both direct-to-consumer and wholesale buyers grossed $4.8 billion in 2008.  And in 2011 alone, we’ve counted over 7,100 operating farmers markets in the country, and over 170 food hubs.

For the past two and half years, via the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF), the USDA has developed interagency partnerships to support the development of local food systems. We’ve developed a dedicated Farm-to-School Team, increased the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP and other federal assistance programs, supported retailers featuring local food and helped new and beginning farmers entering the local food system.

But this is just the beginning.  USDA is committed to supporting America’s local food system.  This year’s Agricultural Outlook Forum’s dedicated session titled “Making Locally Grown Food More Available” (scheduled for February 24) is part of that commitment.   I look forward to seeing you there.

6 Responses to “USDA 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Making Locally Grown Food More Available”

  1. Dondi Harney says:

    Certainly a move in the right direction. Now how about a stand from USDA advocating the benefits of a plant based diet? Vegan/vegetarian citizens are some of the biggest advocates for local produce.

  2. james cunningham says:

    Ms. Merrigan
    With all due respect, I hope you are enjoying your “travels around the country” and I do not intentionally challenge you as an individual but I truly believe the USDA goal is NOT to “connect the two” but rather to single out the local farmer and make his/her business nearly impossible to succeed.
    The USDA has imposed restrictions, arbitrary rules, and astronomical fees and permits in the guise of “protecting” the quality of organic farming when, in actuality, the USDA is clearly on the side of the BIG money farms and industrialized livestock.
    Small farms are struggling to comply with these USDA “guidelines” while the huge factory farms next door plant GE crops and, IF ever charged with misconduct”, they just pay the fines and move forward.
    I truly feel the USDA is one of the biggest detriments to local farmer markets… and I sincerely hope you are working to improve the situation – not just traveling around the markets devising more tactics to take them down.

  3. Lucy Hicks says:

    Will there ever be money available for school districts in California that are struggling with providing local, sustainable product at a cost they can afford? We are trying so hard in the state to provide this, but have such strong financial contraints!

  4. Richard McDermott says:

    Its time to laugh at the whole local food system concerning farmers markets. Here in Western Wisconsin You stand a better chance at getting a food booth at the state fair than you do of getting a booth at your local farmers market. Farmers markets have become a monopoly with a three to four year waiting list or longer to get in. Its a good case of the have and the have nots even if my product is superior to some one with an established booth. If things don’t change new growers like my self will not be providing the local food evey one wants. The obsticals will be too great for so little return.

  5. Groundswell International says:

    I’m happy to see that USDA is learning more about farmers markets and the important contribution they make to our food system, but in order to create a truly healthy food system USDA must reign in industrial agriculture, including Monsanto.

    On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.

    The landmark case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto was filed on March 29, 2011 on behalf of family farmers, seed businesses and agricultural organizations in an effort to challenge Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified (GMO) seeds and protect farmers from the biotech seed and chemical giant’s abusive patent infringement lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, 144 farmers have already been sued by Monsanto and another 700 have settled out of court for undisclosed sums. Many times these abusive lawsuits force farmers into bankruptcy and off the land.

    USDA can’t allow this to continue. Please support small farmers NOT industrial ag!

  6. Patty McCourt says:

    Dear Deputy Secretary,
    USDA is a bit behind the times on this front. People are gravitating toward farmers markets because of decades of nutrition-neglect brought on by the USDA. People are disgusted with supermarkets which are now predominantly stocked with high fructose corn syrup and unlabeled genetically engineered produce. There is very little nutritious, nontoxic, ‘real’ food being sold today in stores. People are sick with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, allergic reactions and nutrient deficiencies- all caused by USDA’s failure at doing its job. USDA has spent our tax dollars subsidizing the very corporations that are making us sick instead of supporting small farmers who grow a variety of produce or organic produce. Many citizens now feel there is a conspiracy at work involving USDA, FDA, big-AG and big-pharma to make Americans sick and brain-dead so that a few greedy people can become rich, and in the case of Monsanto, take over the world’s food supply and soil- and in essence, rule the world. Sound crazy? Look at India.

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