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Posts tagged: AMS

Continued Support for Local Food

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies.  On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »

The Easy Way to Find Local Food – USDA Launches New Local Food Directories

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.

Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded! Read more »

Organic 101: Connecting Farmers and Producers to USDA Resources

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow across the country, representing a multi-billion dollar industry. To meet this demand, USDA offers programs and services to assist the organic community and educate consumers that purchase organic products.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow across the country, representing a multi-billion dollar industry. To meet this demand, USDA offers programs and services to assist the organic community and educate consumers that purchase organic products.

This is the eighteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow across the country, representing a $35 billion dollar industry in 2013.  To meet this demand, USDA has initiated a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with the resources they need to ensure the continued growth of the organic sector domestically and abroad.

Some programs have the specific purpose of assisting organic farmers, ranchers, and handlers. Other programs are open to the general public, including organic operations. USDA has a one-stop-shop for information on all of our programs and opportunities for the organic community.  From research and education, to market information and technical assistance, we have something for you. Read more »

Did YOU Know that the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program Helps Families Affected by Disasters?

FNS Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (far left) pitches in with West Alabama Food Bank workers at a make-shift food bank on May 11, handing out disaster food assistance in a Publix parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornadoes hit the area. Food banks can work with FNS to supply food to victims of disasters. USDA Photo by Debbie Smoot.

FNS Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (far left) pitches in with West Alabama Food Bank workers at a make-shift food bank on May 11, handing out disaster food assistance in a Publix parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornadoes hit the area. Food banks can work with FNS to supply food to victims of disasters. USDA Photo by Debbie Smoot.

September is National Preparedness Month, a time to evaluate the many ways that we can prepare our families and communities before, during, and after a disaster or emergency. Whether they come in the form of a hurricane, earthquake or drought, being prepared is the best defense against long-term, negative impacts. One of the ways USDA supports disaster victims is by supplying food for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). These purchases not only help those unfortunate enough to be affected by the disaster, they also put to use the abundance of foods produced by American farmers and processors.

Through our Commodity Procurement Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes purchases for household federal food programs like TEFAP. Some of the food that supplies this program, which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), comes from the AMS bonus buy program. Read more »

Farming is a Business

The new Farm Bill has created many new tools and resources for beginning farmers and ranchers – and questions about which programs are right for their operations.

That is why I took to Google+ this month to talk about how the new Farm Bill can help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

For the hangout, I was joined by Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter, Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo and Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin. Together, we shared with new and beginning farmers information about the programs and services offered by USDA through the new Farm Bill – including support for beginning farmers and ranchers by increasing funding for beginning farmer development, facilitating farmland transition to the next generation of farmers, and improving outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities. Read more »

Big Help for Small Producers

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable.  Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities.  However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.

In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration.  For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. Read more »