Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) is a USDA-wide effort to carry out President Obama's commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.
We know that demand for local and regional foods is strong, as consumers across the country are looking to connect with their food and the people who grow and raise it:
- The number of farmers markets has more than tripled in the past 15 years and there are now more than 7,175 around the country;
- In 1986 there were two community supported agriculture operations, today there are over 4,000;
- There are farm to school programs in 48 states, totaling more than 2,200 and up from two in 1996;
- All 50 states in the U.S. have agricultural branding programs, such as "Jersey Fresh" or "Simply Kansas;"
- As Governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack started one of the first food policy councils. Today there are over 100 food policy councils;
- And the National Restaurant Association declared "locally sourced meats and seafood" and "locally grown produce" as the top two trends for 2011.
Local and regional markets often provide farmers with a higher share of the food dollar, and money spent at a local business often continues to circulate within community, creating a multiplier effect and providing greater economic benefits to the area.
An Economic Research Service Study (May 2010) identified barriers to local food market entry and expansion, including capacity constraints for farms, a lack of infrastructure for moving local food into mainstream markets, and regulatory uncertainties. This is the work of the Initiative.
Our mission is to strengthen the critical connection between farmers and consumers and supports local and regional food systems. Through this initiative, USDA integrates programs and policies that:
- Stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development;
- Foster new opportunities for farmers and ranchers;
- Promote locally and regionally produced and processed foods;
- Cultivate healthy eating habits and educated, empowered consumers;
- Expand access to affordable fresh and local food; and
- Demonstrate the connection between food, agriculture, community and the environment.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food also leads a national conversation about food and agriculture to strengthen the connection between consumers and farmers.
Thanks to the 2008 Farm Bill, there is more support for local and regional agriculture than ever. To make the most of our programs we are working to foster innovative, effective, and open government. While there is no office, staff, or budget dedicated to KYF2, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan chairs a task force of USDA employees representing every agency within the Department in order to break down bureaucratic silos, develop common-sense solutions for communities and farmers, and foster new partnerships inside USDA and across the country.