By Lacy J. Hansen for DietsInReview.com
The USDA released a report on the 2009 initiative titled, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. The program was developed to improve coordination between federal programs that help build local and regional farm and food systems.
The intention of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food was to use federal resources to increase jobs through the modernization of food economies. The newly released report features case studies that show the program is succeeding. One specific case is from northeastern Iowa where local food sales increased more than 1,000 percent in just four years. Several other success stories and even ripple effect stories that are improving rural and farm incomes are found throughout the report.
Another major focus of the program is food access. The initiative funds programs for localized food processing and distribution so that the food reaches under-served communities.
One of the most exciting results has been how the specific initiative program, USDA Farm to School, has increased students’ fresh fruit and vegetable consumption from 25 to 84 percent.
Know Your Farmer has also supported the development of new “food hubs.” These hubs will grant growers access to local markets and offer them fair prices, a huge step in improving local economies and providing the freshest produce for consumers.
All the findings from the report seem to be stellar and exciting. Here’s the rub, funding may run out for these and so many similar programs later this year.
“This is a very timely report,” notes Helen Dombalis, Policy Associate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The ongoing revitalization of regional farm and food systems depends on the continuation of key 2008 Farm Bill programs whose funding expires later this year if Congress does not act.”
If the farm bill is allowed to expire programs that all feed into the same goals of revitalization will be effected. Programs like Value-Added Producer Grants, where farmers receive help in developing new products while increasing their share of the consumer food dollar, or the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which aids in the creation and expansion of venues for direct farmer-to-consumer sales of local foods, are just two of the many programs funded by the farm bill. The bill is needed badly by those in the industry as they say it provided the tools to keep growing rural jobs and increasing new farming opportunities.
There are several bills pending in Congress all aimed at renewing funds for the several revitalization programs in place. Many are hoping all programs and acts will be included in the hopeful new 2012 Farm Bill.
It’s easy to walk into the grocery store and just grab our food and go. It really is important that we support our farmers and buy local. Jobs, families, and our country’s health is on the line. As individuals we can work harder to do our part, hopefully Congress will do the right thing as the time to vote nears.