The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $78 million in local and regional food systems to support rural America. The funding will support programs that increase access to locally-grown produce at affordable prices.
The USDA plans to help rural farmers and ranchers meet increasing demand for distribution of local produce nationwide. Leveraging stipulations in the 2014 Farm Bill, the USDA will help fund:
- Food hubs
- Farmers markets
- Aggregation and processing facilities
- Distribution services
- Other local food business enterprises
Under the 2014 Farm Bill, the USDA must allocate a minimum of five percent of Business and Industry program loan guarantees for local food business enterprise projects. With the increased funding, local farmers and ranchers will be able to increase their market opportunities and create jobs, while consumers will enjoy more healthy food choices.
About $48 million in loan guarantees are available for local food projects through the USDA Rural Development Initiative. In 2013, more than 170 local food infrastructure projects were supported by the USDA’s Rural Development initiative. An additional $30 million in provided through competitive grants from the Agricultural Marketing Services’ Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program. The funding can also be distributor to urban projects that are focused on farm and ranch production. The main goal of the grants is to support farm and ranch income as well as expand access to healthy food in underserved communities.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a number of other programs in the works to improve ranching and farming success nationwide. The USDA’s Know Your Farmer Know Your Food initiative is helping new farmers find their place in local marketers, and experienced farmers expand their market to support growth. By making local farmers a priority, the USDA is helping communities learn about their food options and support local growers.
The program also features the Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Compass that provides users with an interactive map of the United States to see where USDA projects are taking place and how to access locally-grown food. The compass is a fully-searchable data base of local and regional farmers and ranchers to better connect residents with healthy foods.
These and many other programs are made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. This legislation is working to increase agricultural productivity in the United States which can generate jobs, strengthen conservation efforts, grow a biobased economy and improve the wellness of residents. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, several initiatives were supported including:
- Farm Safety Net – to protect the agricultural industry financially
- Rural Development – financial support for agricultural businesses
- Trade and Foreign Agriculture – support for international market development
- Research – increased funding for agricultural research
- Conservation – organizes conservation efforts to increase efficiency and adaptability at the local level
- Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency – expands funding for clean energy
- Forestry – combines conservation and job growth in the industry
- Nutrition – provides low-income households with access to healthy foods
- Specialty Crops and Organics – support for niche and organics growers
- Farmer and Rancher Development – funds development programs for new farmers and ranchers
Many of the programs can be applied to urban settings when focused on agricultural development.