Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy [April 4, 2012]   [open pdf - 949KB]

"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). […] 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. […] Although the farm bill currently contains few specific programs that directly support local and regional food systems, many community and farm advocacy groups have been arguing that such food systems should play a larger 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. The 112th Congress will likely consider reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill, and may debate options for providing additional support for local and regional producers."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42155
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