March 1, 2012
On Wednesday, February 29 USDA released its Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) report and introduced the Compass, an expansive new resource for the KYF2 initiative. The initiative was launched in 2009 to enhance coordination and efficiency among the various USDA agencies and programs that work to build local and regional farm and food systems.
Local food is a small but growing sector of American agriculture. A new study by the Congressional Research Service notes that the “farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008, or about 1.6 percent of the U.S. market for agricultural products. An estimated total of 107,000 farms are engaged in local food systems, or about 5 percent of all U.S. farms.”
The KYF2 Compass documents the multitude of benefits to be reaped by local food systems, from job creation to expanded access to fresh foods. The new, web-based resource was introduced personally by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan via a live web stream, with a heavy emphasis on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media activity.
USDA coverage of the release of the Compass suggests that it will be a tool for everyone from farmers to consumers so they can, in USDA’s words:
The KYF2 Compass creates a record of the impact of several successful programs from the 2008 Farm Bill that need renewal in 2012, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), and Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG).
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act include provisions to renew funding for these vital programs and to ensure our federal agriculture policy meets the needs of local and regional producers. Both bills are aimed at inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill and have the support of hundreds of farm, food, and rural organizations nationwide.