The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan had launched the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Website yesterday.  The Website launch follows last week’s announcement of the USDA initiative intended to promote local, sustainable agriculture.

USDA Know Your Farmer.jpgThe initiative, chaired by Merrigan, was announced on Sept. 15 and has already received $65 million in funding.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack invited food producers and consumers to participate in the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” movement in a YouTube video.  In it, he told consumers, “If you have ideas about how to get more folks to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables, I hope to hear from you on these and other issues.”

Steps the USDA has taken to promote the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program include the following moves by various agencies:

  • The Risk Management Agency announced $3.4 million in funding for collaborative outreach and assistance programs to socially disadvantaged and underserved farmers. These programs will help producers adopt new and direct marketing practices.
  • The Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed regulations to implement a new voluntary cooperative program under which select state-inspected establishments will be eligible to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce. 
  • Rural Development announced $4.4 million in grants to help 23 local business cooperatives in 19 states as they work to improve their products and expand their appeal in the marketplace.  

According to the USDA, the “Know your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative is designed to support local farmers and community food groups, strengthen rural communities, and help schools connect with locally grown foods.  The initiative will also enhance direct marketing and farmer promotion programs, promote healthy eating, and protect natural resources.  

In a prepared statement Vilsack commented, “An American people that is more engaged with their food supply will create new income opportunities for American agriculture.  Reconnecting consumers and institutions with local producers will stimulate economies in rural communities, improve access to healthy, nutritious food for our families, and decrease the amount of resources to transport our food.”

As the name implies, the initiative will promote interaction between food producers and consumers.  It builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for USDA program efforts to promote local foods.