August 1, 2010
USDA programs can often seem enigmatic and confusing. Many farmers, rural development and conservation groups in need of financial or technical assistance are often either unaware of what USDA programs exist, or lack access to the assistance they seek.
The USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative seeks to remedy this disconnect by strengthening local food systems and improving access to USDA programs.
On Friday, July 30, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food published a blog, “USDA Programs at Glance,” with links to memorandum outlining programs that can be used to foster local and regional food systems in four areas of USDA: Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, Research, Education & Economics, and Agriculture Marketing Service.
We have reported on the first three as they were issued. The AMS memo is new. According to the memo from Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (herself a former head of AMS): AMS research and technical assistance in the fields of food deserts and regional food hubs, along with their support and analysis of farmers markets and other forms of direct marketing, access to market news, and help for farmers working to enhance food safety practices, form the backbone of the Department’s effort to provide fresh, nutritious, easily accessible food to the public, with special focus on underserved areas of this country.
The memo provides basic information on ten programs and research areas, including two that were initiated and championed by NSAC – the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.
The USDA blog post indicates they will be adding information on other USDA agencies’ programs related to Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food in coming months.
Summaries of programs created or significantly amended in the 2008 Farm Bill can also be found in NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill. Another good place to find accessible USDA program information is ATTRA’s Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities: Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation and Community Development.