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USDA launches first-ever local foods survey

Study will provide new benchmark data on locally grown and sold foods in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 7 the "2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey" as part of its continued support of local and regional food systems.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is conducting this first-time survey to produce official benchmark data on the local food sector in the U.S.

"USDA launched the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative' in 2009 to support the growing demand for local and regional food systems, and local food has been part of federal, state and local government policy discussions as consumer interest and demand has grown," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "The information NASS collects in this survey is vital to providing data to understand the benefits of local and regional food systems."

The "Local Food Marketing Practices Survey" will ask producers for information on their production and local marketing of foods during the 2015 calendar year. Information includes the value of food sales by marketing channel — e.g., farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) arrangements, restaurants, roadside stands, food hubs and others — the value of crop and livestock sales, marketing practices, expenses, federal farm program participation and more.

"More than 160,000 farms have direct and intermediated sales, and industry estimates suggest the value of the local foods market was nearly $12 billion in 2014," Vilsack said. "This is important information that was used to inform support for local and regional food systems in the (2014 farm bill). Now, as communities are using these programs to help grow the local food sector, this new survey will help show where the sector is today and help identify future needs."

Local foods are linked to many USDA priorities, including enhancing the rural economy, the environment, food access and nutrition and strengthening agricultural producers and markets. USDA stakeholders, including farmers and ranchers, various levels of government and related businesses and organizations, all can benefit from the new information, which will be published in December 2016, the agency said.

The data will be used for decisions and programs that support local and regional food systems, including:

* The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, Specialty Crop Block Grants Program;

* The USDA Farm Service Agency’s Microloan Program;

* The USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program, a collaboration between USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture and USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service;

* The USDA Food & Nutrition Service’s efforts to expand EBT availability at farmers markets;

* State and local agencies’ support and promotion of local food markets;

* The business and marketing strategies of farmers and agricultural organizations, and

* Research on local foods conducted by researchers, extension services and university members.

Producers who receive the 2015 "Local Food Marketing Practices Survey" from NASS are strongly encouraged to respond. Farmers and ranchers can fill out the survey online via a secure website, www.agcounts.usda.gov, or return their form by mail.

For more information about the 2015 local food survey, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.

The Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey was mailed to a random sample of producers that grow and sell foods locally. Response to the survey is vital as the information gathered will be used to account for all farmers involved in the local and regional food system.

NASS is also preparing for the 2017 Census of Agriculture, a complete count once every five years of all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. If a producer did not receive the last Census of Agriculture in 2012, they are encouraged to sign up at www.nass.usda.gov/Online_Response/Be_Counted/.

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