Consumer demand for local and regional products is on the rise, and this growing interest in the “farm to fork” pipeline is helping to open new markets and economic opportunities to farmers and food producers across the nation. Local and regional food pipelines have long been part of the social and economic fabric for some American communities, and today interest is more widespread than ever. With the American farm economy in downturn and commodity prices at historic lows, family farmers nationwide have increasingly found that local and regional food pipelines can help them to create big economic opportunities close to home.
Despite the serious potential created by this growing consumer demand, many would-be food and farm entrepreneurs struggle to enter the local/regional marketplace. A lack of infrastructure (e.g. storage, aggregation, transportation, and processing capacity) and technical links (e.g., marketing and business planning) have made it difficult for many farmers and producers to update their businesses to reach these new customer bases. By helping to connect the dots between producers and local customers (including individuals, institutions, and others along the farm to fork pipeline), Congress can generate wins that equally benefit farmers and eaters, as well as rural and urban communities.