The USDA steps up its investments in regional food systems

The USDA steps up its investments in regional food systems

Editor’s Note: The USDA is looking to support regional food systems and prioritize communities that have been often overlooked and are in need of economic development. These regional systems will create numerous jobs and support economic growth in struggling areas.

After decades of intense consolidation and globalization, rebuilding food systems that are rooted in and built to serve smaller geographic regions is no simple project. Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made several major investments in just those kinds of systems as part of its Food System Transformation Framework. It has funded the development and expansion of small meatpacking plants, increased farm-to-school grants that create direct pipelines between local growers and cafeterias, and implemented new urban agriculture programs.

Now, the agency is investing $400 million in agricultural command centers that it hopes will better coordinate all of those various pieces, strengthening local supply chains.

“There’s a real opportunity for producers to partner with those that want local and regional food systems, but it’s sometimes difficult to know how to get started, and how to take advantage of or even to be aware of the various programs that exist,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Civil Eats in an interview on Monday. “The point of this [effort] is to create a vehicle—with all these various programs that we’ve now created—to ensure that people have access to the information they need to be able to build that local and regional food system.”

Continue reading.

Photo caption: Fred Lee and his Sang Lee Farms team participate in the Farmer’s Market in Northport, New York. Credit: USDA/Preston Keres.

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