USDA Invests in New Market Opportunities in Local and Regional Food Systems
By PRESS OFFICER
Over the course of the Administration, USDA has created new economic opportunities in the growing market for local and regional foods for new and established farmers, ranchers and small food business entrepreneurs. Through investments at the farm level in the form of production research, credit and conservation assistance; infrastructure investments that connect farmers and consumers; and strategies to increase access to healthy foods in rural and urban communities, USDA has helped the market for local food grow to an estimated $11.7 billion in 2014. Between FY 2009 and FY 2014, USDA invested more than $800 million in more than 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects.
Helped Farmers and Ranchers Tap into New, Local Markets
- Increased support for farmers and ranchers developing new products to sell locally. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of Value Added Producer Grants awarded to local food projects jumped by more than 500 percent. During the 2013–2014 funding cycle, USDA dedicated nearly $11 million—nearly half of the awarded funds—to 116 unique local food projects through this program.
- Helped producers construct nearly 15,000 high tunnels on farms around the country between 2010 and 2015. These low-cost greenhouses extend the growing season, reduce input costs, conserve natural resources and make locally-grown produce available for a greater portion of the year.
- Provided nearly 15,000 microloans to farmers and ranchers in all 50 states, many of whom take advantage of local marketing opportunities, since the program was launched in January 2013. This program provides smaller loans of up to $50,000 for small-scale, diversified producers. 70 percent of these loans have gone to beginning farmers.
- Expanded consumers’ access to information about local food through our National Farmers Market Directory, which now lists nearly 8,500 farmers markets nationwide. USDA has also launched several new Local Food Directories for Community Supported Agriculture enterprises, food hubs, and on-farm stores.
- To provide better pricing data to industry, lending institutions and insurers, USDA launched a new program through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Market News to gather and report prices for local food and organic products. USDA is working to ensure that this data can be used by Farm Service Agency loan officers and in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program risk protection program to provide the right level of coverage for farms selling into these premium markets.
Improved Infrastructure to Connect Producers with New Markets
- Made over 900 investments in local food infrastructure between FY 2009 and FY 2015- including food hubs, local processing facilities and distribution networks—to help connect farmers and consumers through strong regional supply chains and create jobs along the way.
- Supported a near doubling of the number of food hubs between 2009 and 2014, with more than 300 now operational around the country. USDA investments help plan, design and build hubs, while USDA research informs best practices and helps lenders understand how to work with these unique businesses. Food hubs aggregate products from small and midsize farms and distribute them to large-volume buyers, such as grocery stores, in the local region. On average, each food hub supports 20 jobs and generates nearly $4 million in annual sales.
- Invested in direct sales opportunities like farmers markets that keep more of the food dollar in farmers’ pockets and improve consumer access to fresh, healthy and local food. The number of farmers markets has grown by 81 percent nationally since 2008. Since 2009, USDA has helped more consumers connect directly with farmers through the Farmers Market Promotion Program, providing $60 million in assistance for over 900 projects nationwide between FY 2009 and FY 2015 to grow and expand farmers markets and other direct marketing opportunities. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded FMPP to include the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), which supports other local food marketing channels like food hubs, distribution networks and CSAs. LFPP has funded over 350 projects totaling nearly $25 million since it launched in 2014.
Improved Access to Healthy, Local Food
- Expanded access to healthy foods in underserved communities by increasing the number of farmers markets that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Over 6,000 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers now accept EBT, and SNAP redemption at farmers markets nationwide rose from $4 million in 2009 to over $18 million in 2014.
- Invested in 221 projects in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the past three years that help to create new marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers in schools through the Farm to School grant program, which began in 2013 and is funded through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. According to preliminary data from USDA’s Farm to School Census, schools spent nearly $600 million on local food purchases during the 2013–2014 school year.
- Supported communities that use local food as a strategy to reduce food insecurity. Between FY 2009 and FY 2014, USDA has provided $28 million to 154 Community Food Projects in 48 states to help communities improve access to healthy, local food.
Sharing USDA’s Tools That Support Local Food Systems
The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates this work across the Department, ensuring that USDA’s programs and policies are evolving to meet the needs of this growing sector of agriculture. The KYF2 website is a one-stop shop for resources and information about USDA programs and support for local and regional food systems. In addition to featuring information about relevant grants, loans, research and other tools, the KYF2 website features the Compass, which maps over 4,500 federally funded local food projects on the Compass Map from USDA and 11 other federal agencies between FY 2009 and FY 2014. All of the data on the map are downloadable, searchable and updated annually.
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