Today, on behalf of the White House Rural Council, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Local Food, Local Places, a federal initiative that will provide direct technical support to rural communities to help them build strong local food systems as part of their community's economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, and regional economic experts will work directly with local communities to develop comprehensive strategies that use local food systems to meet a variety of needs.
The announcement, made during the White House Rural Council's first live-streamed meeting, included Vilsack, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chairman Earl Gohl; and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill.
"Buying locally is one of the best things a community can do to grow its economy. Partnerships like Local Food, Local Places help rural leaders develop strategies for promoting farm products grown by people right in their own communities," said Secretary Vilsack. "The demand for local food is growing rapidly nationwide, creating more opportunities for American farmers and ranchers and growing the entire country's rural economy."
"The Department of Transportation recognizes that freight is a concern for rural regions, which is why though our Partnership for Sustainable Communities and TIGER grant program we support freight movement in farm communities," said Secretary Foxx. "DOT is proud to take part in the Local Food, Local Places initiative and to support community food enterprises and make it easier for people to access those amenities with affordable, multimodal transportation options."
"EPA is excited to work with USDA, the Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Delta Regional Authority on the new Local Foods Local Places program, which will help communities-especially rural ones-focus development on main streets to boost local economies, preserve rural lands, and give residents better access to healthy food," said EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.
"Across Appalachia, communities are discovering the valuable role that vibrant local food systems can play in diversifying their economies," stated ARC Federal Co-Chairman Earl F. Gohl." Investments in local food systems can pay big dividends in creating a stronger economy and a healthier population, and the Local Food, Local Places initiative will help rural Appalachian communities devise the strategies that energize local economic development and create the jobs that go with it."
"As a region with a rich economic and cultural history centered on agriculture, we recognize nutrition, local food systems, and value chains as a critical driver towards our goals of creating a healthier workforce, strengthening our local economies, and building sustainable communities. We are proud to be a partner in this effort to grow capacity for food systems in the Delta region and across the country," Chairman Masingill said.
During the White House Rural Council event, Secretary Vilsack also announced updated results from the USDA Farm to School Census, illustrating the indicating continued economic impact of local food procurement around the country. According to the updated Farm to School Census, U.S. school districts around the country purchased more than $386 million from local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers during the 2011-2012 school year. More than half of participating school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years, and an additional 13% have plans to implement local food purchasing in the future. Results from the Farm to School Census are available at the national, state, and school district level data and in a visually rich and easy to navigate format. In keeping with the Administration's emphasis on transparency and access to data, all farm to school data is available on www.data.gov and on the Farm to School Census website.
These efforts are part of USDA's commitment to support local and regional food systems. USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates the Department's policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass maps nearly 3,000 local and regional food projects supported by USDA and eleven other federal agencies. Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development, along with production agriculture (including expanding export markets and improving research), promoting conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities, and growing the biobased economy.
About the White House Rural Council
To address challenges in Rural America, build on the Administration's rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy, the President signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. The Council coordinates the Administration's efforts in rural America by streamlining and improving the effectiveness of federal programs serving rural America; engage stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, and local citizens, on issues and solutions in rural communities; and promoting and coordinating private-sector partnerships. The work of the White House Rural Council and USDA to bring investment to rural America is an example of how the Administration is creating smart partnerships with the private sector to better support Americans in all parts of the country.