Marketing, Food Systems & Rural Development


The surge in consumer demand for organically-produced food and agricultural products from local and regional markets form a unique set of opportunities and challenges. Rising demand for these kinds of foods is an important incentive for farmers and ranchers, but many still face the high cost of transitioning to organic production or live in an area that lacks appropriate processing and distribution infrastructure necessary to enable a local or regional food system to fully emerge.

Federal policies and programs have been slow to respond to this changing market environment, but the 2008 Farm Bill does take some important steps toward better addressing the gaps and needs of producers and organizations who want to supply the growing demand for good food. NSAC and its members are working to ensure that these new programs are properly implemented at the administrative level and funded.

Over half of all new jobs created in the most rural regions of the nation come from small, non-farm business ventures. In addition to providing producers with the resources they need to access markets for organically and regionally-produced foods, non-agriculture job creation is imperative for the survival of rural communities. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is working with its members to help promote rural entrepreneurship and small business success in rural communities. This is part of the larger strategy to revitalize agricultural communities in an equitable manner that provides meaningful employment and gives people a lasting stake in their communities.

Priorities for the Marketing, Food Systems & Rural Development Committee for 2014:

Local and Regional Food Systems

Strengthen marketing and rural development programs that promote development of the entire value chain for local and regional foods and sustainable and organic agriculture, including production, aggregation, processing, distribution, and marketing.  This work includes but is not limited to the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, National Organic Cost Share Certification Program, Value-Added Producer Grant Program, and Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Local and Regional Food Enterprise Program.

Rural Development

Foster business opportunities and job creation in rural communities, including but not limited to work that directly relates to food and agriculture development, through strong funding levels and improvements to USDA Rural Development programs.  This work includes but is not limited to the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, Rural Business Development Grant Program, and Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program.

Farm to School Grants and Pilot Program

Expand and enhance farm to school initiatives through strong implementation of the Farm to School grant program and ensure greater flexibility for states, school districts, and schools in sourcing local food for school meals and snacks, including through implementation of the Farm to School pilot program from the 2014 Farm Bill.

Healthy Food Access

Support the development and funding of programs that increase access to healthy and locally produced food for low-income underserved communities in the U.S.  Examples of programs include the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program, Community Food Project Grant Program, Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

For information on NSAC’s appropriations campaign priorities, check out this page.

Recent Actions Taken by NSAC:

  • NSAC joined on a letter with several other national and regional organizations that are involved in the Capaign for Renewed Rural Development, urging Agriculture Committee leaders to complete a comprehensive farm bill and find additional funding to invest in rural development programs in the final bill, August 2013.
  • NSAC member group, the Farmers Market Coalition, released a report that evaluates the impacts of the popular Farmers Market Promotion Program, July 2013.
  • NSAC submitted comments to USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program in Florida and Michigan, September 29, 2011.
  • NSAC signed onto a statement authored by the Campaign for a Renewed Rural Development that outlines Rural Development priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill, September, 2011.
  • NSAC submitted recommendations to USDA on how to implement the Farm-to-school Competitive Grants Program, June 23, 2011.
  • NSAC submitted comments on the interim final rule for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, April 25, 2011.
  • NSAC submitted comments on the nutrition standards in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, April 13, 2011.
  • NSAC signed onto a letter from Feeding America to Representatives in support of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, November 11, 2010.
  • In advance of the 2012 Farm Bill, NSAC hosted two producers to testify before the House Agriculture Subcommittees, July 21, 2010.  View the testimony of Van Ayers before the Subcommittee on Rural Development, Biotechnology, Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture and view the testimony of Margaret Smith before the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture.
  • Letters from 41 organizations to House and Senate urging $50 million in mandatory funding for Farm to School in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, May 3, 2010.
  • Two-page summary of the $50 million ask for Farm to School from the Farm to School Collaborative (of which NSAC is a member), February, 2010.
  • NSAC submitted comments on the interim final rule for the Interstate Shipment of State-Inspected Meats, November 16, 2009
  • NSAC submitted comments on the proposed “naturally-raised” meat label claim, November 13, 2009.
  • Updated list of USDA State Rural Development Directors, October 27, 2009
  • NSAC submitted comments on the interim rule for Rural Development Guaranteed Loans, February 17, 2009.