NSAC's Blog

Local/Regional Food Sector Moves Out of Data Dark Ages

December 20, 2016

Photo credit: Audra Mulkern, 2016.

Data is crucial for any well functioning market – producers, investors, and consumers alike need to understand market trends and dynamics in order to make sound business decisions. This is as true for farmers and ranchers as it is for Wall Street executives. Growers, however, have long struggled due to a lack of useful data and metrics in their industry. This is especially problematic in the local and regional food sector, which, despite being a large and growing industry, has been held back by a lack of robust statistical information.

On December 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) announced the release of the results from their highly anticipated Local Food Marketing Practices Survey – a move that will hopefully help bring the local and regional food movement out of the data dark ages.

The survey includes information on both fresh and value-added foods, such as meat and cheese, and shows strong potential for future growth. According to the results, over 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food locally through through food hubs and other intermediaries, direct farmer-to-consumer marketing, or direct farm to retail, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue in 2015. For additional survey results, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/Local_Food/index.php.

Over the coming weeks, NSAC will be digging down into the data in an effort to analyze what the full results of the survey might mean for the future of the local and regional food movements. Stay tuned for more information.


Recognizing how crucial data is to any well functioning market, NSAC worked closely with our allies in Congress to secure authorization for the first NASS local and regional food survey as part of the 2014 Farm Bill (through the Local Food Production and Program Evaluation Initiative). The Local Food Production and Program Evaluation Initiative was one of many provisions of the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act marker bill, which NSAC and our congressional champions, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), won as part of the last farm bill cycle.

Categories: Farm Bill, Local & Regional Food Systems, Marketing and Labeling

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