Responding to the now $7 billion per year market of local and regional food, USDA has unveiled its database of pricing and volume information about local and regional food markets, made possible with authorization from the 2014 Farm Bill.
"More consumers are savoring farm-fresh food, and more farmers—especially small and mid-size farmers—are profiting from new markets for their products," Ag Marketing Service Deputy Administrator Charles Parrot wrote in an official blog post last week. Having data available to farmers and businesses of all sizes for free helps to "level the playing field."
The data, created by USDA Market News, is a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products from all commodity areas.
Three report categories, are available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information web page:
• Farmers Markets reports, which list current commodity prices at a sample of individual farmers markets
• Farmers Auctions reports, which display current commodity volume and prices at auctions
• Direct to Consumer reports, which capture the prices of commodities that farmers sell directly to consumers
The number of operations reporting will grow over the next few years, Parrot said, and USDA Market News is also developing Farm-to-School, Food Hub, and Retail reports to increase the scope of available data.
"These reports will give users accurate pricing information and the ability to track local pricing," he explained, adding that farmers seeking loans can incorporate that information into realistic business plans, improving their chances of getting financed and insured by USDA or local banks and businesses.
The reports also support the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which carries out USDA's commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.
USDA Market News has a 100-year history of serving a broad range of stakeholders at all levels of trading. The data, gathered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, are released within hours of collection, allowing producers and marketers to quickly see which of their commodities are in the greatest demand at which markets.
By making data available to everyone for free, USDA Market News ensures that no group is disadvantaged by lack of information, Parrot said.