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Secretary’s Column: Opportunity for Farmers and Ranchers

Two and a half years ago, I announced a new initiative here at USDA called Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

It’s the public face of our commitment to help farmers and ranchers of all sizes take advantage of new opportunities, meet the growing demand for local and regional food and succeed in America’s diverse marketplace.

Last week, USDA unveiled new tools showcasing what we’ve accomplished over the last few years as local food sales have expanded as a multi-billion dollar industry.

The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is an electronic document and interactive map you can access online at www.USDA.gov/KYFcompass.

It can help you navigate USDA resources that support local and regional food systems. It introduces farmers, ranchers, businesses and communities around the country that are tapping into these opportunities to improve incomes and create jobs. It is a jumping off point so you can join the national conversation about where our food comes from.

In the past years, more and more farmers and ranchers have looked to sell their products close to home. USDA has supported this trend.

Farmers across the country have built nearly 4,500 high tunnels – a sort of low-cost greenhouse – to extend their growing seasons with support from USDA. We’ve provided grants to encourage and train a new generation of Americans getting their start in farming.

We’ve also supported the growth of farmers markets. Today there are more than 7,100 around the country where farmers and ranchers are selling locally to improve their incomes – that is a more than 50% increase over the past 3 years.

At the same time, we’re helping fund new regional infrastructure like cold storage warehouses, commercial kitchens and local slaughter facilities. This is critical if producers want to serve larger institutional customers like schools and hospitals. It helps create jobs in related businesses.

Today’s ag industry is more diverse and more vibrant than ever, and USDA is working to meet its evolving needs. Learn more online by visiting the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass at www.USDA.gov/KYFCompass .

As our producers enjoy record farm income and exports, I’m proud to see this expanding segment of American agriculture is spurring job growth, keeping more wealth in rural communities and more farmers on their land.

You can find the audio version of the Secretary’s Column here.

3 Responses to “Secretary’s Column: Opportunity for Farmers and Ranchers”

  1. Bridging Loans says:

    This is a useful resource which I am sure all those involved in agriculture will find extremely useful.

  2. Harriet Wynn says:

    How do I apply for a grant for training and starting a farm?

  3. rwilymz says:

    Your own ag census shows that of the 2.2 million farms, a full 55% of them have revenue under $10,000. This section of the farmer demographic is the only one that is growing – according to your numbers.

    These are folks, like me, who work full time jobs but have a little land and want to do such things as sell lamb on craigslist for slaughter, raise a few steer for same, sell eggs, a little produce at the weekend farmer’s market…

    These people don’t care about “regional infrastructure” unless it’s a place where they can find a sheep shearer, or a decent slaughterhouse that doesn’t give precedence to deer butchering. And these folks are certainly not involved in the farm exports that keeps “wealth in rural communities and farmers on their land”.

    Farm exports are dominated by the large, corporate megalith farms that actually push the medium-sized and erstwhile “family” farmers OFF their land. They are also the ones primarily interested in that infrastructure you talk about.

    I don’t know who you think you’re fooling with your claims to “support this trend”.

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