"Sales of locally produced foods comprise a small, but growing, part of U.S. agricultural sales. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008, about 1.6% of the U.S. market for agricultural products. An estimated total of 107,000 farms were engaged in local food systems, about 5% of all U.S. farms. Examples of the types of farming businesses that are engaged in local foods are direct-to consumer marketing, farmers' markets, farm-to-school programs, community-supported agriculture, community gardens, school gardens, food hubs and market aggregators, and kitchen incubators and mobile slaughter units, among myriad other types of operations. […] This report is organized into three parts. First, it provides background on local and regional food systems, focusing on available data on direct-to-consumer sales, farmers' markets, farm-to-school programs, community-supported agriculture (CSA), and community gardens. Second, it highlights available resources within existing federal programs administered by USDA and other agencies that may be applied to support local food systems. It also describes some of the Obama Administration's initiatives that leverage existing USDA programs to support local food systems. (A more comprehensive table and description of existing programs is included in the Appendix.) Finally, it discusses some of the legislative options that were proposed in the 112th Congress intended to broaden support for local and regional food systems, as part of the next farm bill. These issues may continue to be of interest in the 113th Congress as it continues to consider reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill."
CRS Report for Congress, R42155