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The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy

The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy

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Published by Russ Walker
Congressional Research Service
Congressional Research Service

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Published by: Russ Walker on Mar 13, 2013
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CRS Report for Congress
 Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
The Role of Local Food Systems inU.S. Farm Policy
Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy
Randy Alison Aussenberg
Analyst in Nutrition Assistance Policy
Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural DevelopmentMarch 12, 2013
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govR42155
 
The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm PolicyCongressional Research Service
Summary
Sales of locally produced foods comprise a small but growing part of U.S. agricultural sales.USDA estimates that farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008, or about 1.6% of the U.S. market for agricultural products. An estimated total of 107,000 farms areengaged in local food systems, or about 5% of all U.S. farms.There is no established definition of what constitutes a “local food.” Local and regional foodsystems generally refer to agricultural production and marketing that occurs within a certaingeographic proximity (between farmer and consumer) or that involves certain social or supplychain characteristics in producing food (such as small family farms, urban gardens, or farms usingsustainable agriculture practices). Some perceive locally sourced foods as fresher and higher inquality compared to some other readily available foods, and also believe that purchasing localfoods helps support local farm economies and/or farmers that use certain production practices thatare perceived to be more environmentally sustainable.A wide range of farm businesses may be considered to be engaged in local foods. These includedirect-to-consumer marketing, farmers’ markets, farm-to-school programs, community-supportedagriculture, community gardens, school gardens, food hubs and market aggregators, and kitchenincubators and mobile slaughter units. Other types of operations include on-farm sales/stores,internet marketing, food cooperatives and buying clubs, pick-your-own or “U-Pick” operations,roadside farm stands, urban farms (and rooftop farms and gardens), community kitchens, small-scale food processing and decentralized root cellars, and some agritourism or other types of on-farm recreational activities.The 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246, Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) contained a few program provisions that directly support local and regional food systems. However, manyexisting federal programs benefiting U.S. agricultural producers may also provide support andassistance for local food systems. These include farm support and grant programs administered bythe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and may be grouped into several broad programcategories: marketing and promotion; business assistance; rural and community development;nutrition and education; agricultural research and cooperative extension; and farmlandconservation. Examples include USDA’s farmers’ market programs, rural cooperative grants, andselected child nutrition programs, among myriad other grant and loan programs, as well asUSDA’s research and cooperative extension service. Farm bill proposals debated in the 112
th
 Congress would have expanded several of these programs.The 113
th
Congress will likely consider reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill and may reconsider  proposals debated in the 112
th
Congress to address expiring farm bill provisions, including provisions that either directly or indirectly support local food systems. Although the 2008 farm bill contained few specific programs that directly support local and regional food systems, manycommunity and farm advocacy groups have been arguing that such food systems should play alarger policy role within the next farm bill, and that laws should be modified to reflect broader,more equitable policies across a range of production systems, including local food systems. The112
th
Congress introduced legislation, including several comprehensive marker bills, whichwould have expanded the benefits for local and regional food systems. These issues may continueto be of interest in the 113
th
Congress.
 
The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm PolicyCongressional Research Service
Contents
Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 1
 
Local Food Markets ......................................................................................................................... 2
 
Estimated Market Size ............................................................................................................... 2
 
Definitions of Local Foods ........................................................................................................ 3
 
“Local” Based on Distance Traveled .................................................................................. 4
 
“Local” Based on Marketing Outlet .................................................................................... 5
 
“Local” Based on Perceived Attributes ............................................................................... 7
 
Estimated Number of Urban and Metropolitan Farms ............................................................ 12
 
Types of Businesses and Operations ....................................................................................... 14
 
Farmers’ Markets ............................................................................................................... 15
 
Farm-to-School Programs ................................................................................................. 16
 
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) ....................................................................... 18
 
Community Gardens and School Gardens ........................................................................ 18
 
Food Hubs and Market Aggregators ................................................................................. 21
 
Kitchen Incubators ............................................................................................................ 22
 
Mobile Slaughter Units ..................................................................................................... 23
 
Federal Programs and Initiatives ................................................................................................... 23
 
Selected USDA Programs ........................................................................................................ 23
 
Loans for Local Food Producers ....................................................................................... 26
 
Local Food Purchases in Child Nutrition Programs .......................................................... 26
 
Grants for Farm-to-School Programs ................................................................................ 27
 
Other USDA Actions ......................................................................................................... 27
 
 Non-USDA Programs .............................................................................................................. 28
 
Administration Initiatives ........................................................................................................ 29
 
“Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative............................................................ 29
 
Regional Innovation Initiative ........................................................................................... 32
 
Healthy Food Financing Initiative ..................................................................................... 33
 
People’s Garden Initiative ................................................................................................. 34
 
Congressional Actions ................................................................................................................... 35
 
Legislative Options .................................................................................................................. 35
 
Farm Bill Reauthorization ................................................................................................. 35
 
Child Nutrition Reauthorization ........................................................................................ 36
 
Proposed Legislation in the 112
th
Congress ............................................................................. 37
 
House and Senate Proposed Farm Bills ............................................................................ 37
 
Other Proposed Legislation ............................................................................................... 37
 
Considerations for Congress .................................................................................................... 39
 
Figures
Figure 1. USDA Estimates of Local Food Sales .............................................................................. 3
 
Figure 2. Value of Direct-to-Consumer Food Marketing, by Region (1997-2007) ......................... 7
 
Figure 3. Percent of Farms with Direct Sales, 2007 ........................................................................ 9
 
Figure 4. Reliance on Direct-to-Consumer Marketing .................................................................. 10
 

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