The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching what it calls “a concerted effort” to help small and mid-sized farms. The announcement from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack comes after a recent census pointed to a reduction in the number of smaller farming operations.
Speaking on Monday with reporters from the National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Vilsack said his department is working to assist these farmers in finding markets for their products. “We’re going to broaden the national farmers’ market directory to include community-supported agriculture activities, on-farm stores and food hubs,” Vilsack said. “This will provide an opportunity for you, as a producer, to know precisely what opportunities exist within your region.”
In addition, the U.S.D.A. plans to expand the popular Farm-to-School Program. “We know there’s a tremendous demand in schools for locally produced product, we had more than 355-million dollars in sales last year…we anticipate and expect that this is only going to grow,” Vilsack said. An additional seven Farm-to-School coordinators will be placed across the country to help forge relationships between farmers and school districts, according to Vilsack.
The former Iowa governor said the U.S.D.A. will also work to make it easier for small and mid-sized farmers to gain access to capital by expanding loan programs and increasing funding for such things as hoop houses, which enable longer growing seasons.