Opportunity in local and regional food in America
by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
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.
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.