The USDA has ramped up efforts to provide farmers and local producers with more money with the goal of expanding market opportunities at the local and regional level. Between 2009 and 2014, the department invested more than $800 million in more than 29,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure tasks, and last year alone boosted local food growth by nearly $11.7 billion, according to a recently released USDA Fact Sheet.
The investments target helping farmers and ranchers gain access to new and local markets, improving infrastructure to connect producers with new markets, and improving access to local food. Highlights of the USDA’s initiatives between 2009 and 2015 include:
- A 500% increase in the number of Value Added Producer Grants awarded to local food projects
- Assisting in the construction of almost 15,000 high tunnels nationwide to extend the growing season, reduce input costs and conserve natural resources
- Provide 15,000 microloans to farmers and ranchers (up to $50,000) nationwide
- More than 900 investments in local food infrastructure, including food hubs, the number of which has doubled to more than 300; local processing facilities; and distribution networks
- Provide $60 million in assistance to more than 900 projects involving the Farmers Market Promotion Program
- Support communicates using local food to reduce food insecurity, providing $28 million to more than 150 Community Food Projects nationwide