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Posts tagged: Transportation and Marketing Program

On the Road to Success for Local and Regional Food

Finding creative ways to navigate transportation issues is critical to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food. A new report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service serves as a resource for strategies and solutions to help small- and mid-size farm operations, food hubs, agribusinesses and researchers solve these issues. Photo courtesy David Ingram

Finding creative ways to navigate transportation issues is critical to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food. A new report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service serves as a resource for strategies and solutions to help small- and mid-size farm operations, food hubs, agribusinesses and researchers solve these issues. Photo courtesy David Ingram

Rivers, roads and rails—the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. Finding the best path forward can be difficult as city traffic gets worse each year, frustrating commuters and thwarting deliveries. Also in the transportation mix are farmers traveling the same roads trying to bring the freshest produce to city markets.  With the $7 billion-per-year market for local and regional food continuing to grow, more and more goods are being transported along local routes.

Developing creative ways to navigate transportation challenges is critical for farmers and consumers alike to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food.  Farmers relying on local and regional food systems may not have the scale or capacity to use established food freight systems. That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has taken a fresh look at food distribution issues, especially for the local and regional markets. Read more »

Delivering Along the Food Value Chain

Food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer - before it is laid on the table - food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. AMS has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain. Photo courtesy of Bart Everson.

Food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer - before it is laid on the table - food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. AMS has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain. Photo courtesy of Bart Everson.

A recent trip back home to Louisiana sparked memories of a simpler time when old trucks full of fresh produce rumbled down dusty roads to deliver goods to the local market. The 2012 Census of Agriculture tells us that 50,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are now selling to local retailers and that 150,000 of them are selling their products directly to consumers. Although these farmers and ranchers are still using this direct approach, the agricultural industry is certainly more dynamic today.  This means that producers need to follow a strategic business model.

The reality is that food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer. Before it is served on the table, food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. My agency, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain, including farmers markets and food hubs. For example, we invest in projects that help farmers and businesses understand emerging trends, create new markets, and stimulate our nation’s rural economies. Read more »

Following the Rails: USDA Tracks Agricultural Exports Across the Border

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination.  Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination. Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Driving down a rural road, admiring the expansive fields of corn and soybeans, I stopped at a rail crossing to wait for what seemed like an endless train of cars filled with grain.  My idle mind wondered, where are all those tons of grain headed, where was its final destination?  For anyone else, it may just be curiosity. But for me and those who work in my division within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), it’s our job to answer those questions.

We understand that for stakeholders within the agricultural industry—farmers, grain mill operators, shippers and exporters—the answers are critical.  Sound business decisions require knowledge about what is happening with the transportation of agricultural products, both in the domestic and international marketplace. Read more »

Connecting Farmers Markets to a New World of Opportunities

A young boy looks over the fresh fruits and veggies with his mother at a farmers market in Mississippi.  By listing their market in the National Farmers Market Directory, market managers open their market up new customers. Photo courtesy Natalie Maynor

A young boy looks over the fresh fruits and veggies with his mother at a farmers market in Mississippi. By listing their market in the National Farmers Market Directory, market managers open their market up new customers. Photo courtesy Natalie Maynor

Spring is in the air and it’s time to gear up for the outdoor market season. People are looking for fresh fruits, veggies and other goodies from their local farmers markets, and with a couple clicks of the mouse, the USDA National Farmers Market Directory makes the search easy. Read more »

The Best Food Distribution Models for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers

Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco.  Wholesale buyers like Bi-Rite see value in marketing local products.  Our study found that marketing to regional preferences helps farmers get a better price for their products.

Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Wholesale buyers like Bi-Rite see value in marketing local products. Our study found that marketing to regional preferences helps farmers get a better price for their products.

Small and mid-size farmers are the backbone of farmers markets, but they often face particular obstacles when trying to sell products in markets like grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, and schools.  Through the Transportation and Marketing program at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we explored this issue in our recent study, Moving Food Along the Value Chain: Innovations in Regional Food Distribution. Read more »

AMS Releases Grain Transportation Data in Raw Format

A grain silo in eastern Washington.  AMS has been tracking and gathering datasets for grain transportation for over a decade.  Photo by Sparktography.

Grain in eastern Washington. AMS has been tracking and gathering datasets for grain transportation for over a decade. Photo by Sparktography.

The United States proudly touts a long history of grain production and is the top exporter of grain in the world. Half of our wheat, almost 40 percent of soybeans and almost a fifth of our corn are exported.  That’s why for over a decade the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has been tracking and gathering datasets for grain transportation, including prices, deliveries, movements, sales and freight rates, and now, for the first time, we’ve released our historic data in an excel  format. Read more »