FAQ: What is USDA doing to help create more opportunities for local farmers markets?
Answer: In recent years 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.
Farmers now able to gain access to 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%. 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% 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.
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.