"Sales of locally produced foods comprise a small but growing part of U.S. agricultural sales. USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] 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 are engaged 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 food systems generally refer to agricultural production and marketing that occurs within a certain geographic proximity (between farmer and consumer) or that involves certain social or supply chain characteristics in producing food (such as small family farms, urban gardens, or farms using sustainable agriculture practices). Some perceive locally sourced foods as fresher and higher in quality compared to some other readily available foods, and also believe that purchasing local foods helps support local farm economies and/or farmers that use certain production practices that are perceived to be more environmentally sustainable. […] 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, many farm bill-related programs benefiting agricultural producers may provide support and assistance for such food systems. These include federal farm support and grant programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which may be grouped into several broad program categories: marketing and promotion; business assistance; rural and community development; nutrition and education; agricultural research and cooperative extension; and farmland conservation. Examples include USDA's farmers' market programs, rural cooperative grants, and selected child nutrition programs, among myriad other grant and loan programs, as well as USDA's research and cooperative extension service."
CRS Report for Congress, RL42155