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The Price is Right: Local Beef Reporting in Vermont

Posted by Craig A. Morris, AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program Deputy Administrator in Food and Nutrition Farming
Jul 22, 2015
Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont
This report is pioneering the way beef is marketed by providing local price information for farmers, increasing transparency in the marketplace, and enabling institutions to properly assess the value of a small or mid-sized farm, which sells its commodities locally. Pictured here is Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont.

There’s no doubt about it – gears are turning in the world of local food production.  From rural communities to large food retailers, local and regional food is a growing business across the country.  In the USDA’s Market News division, developing market reports to keep up with the growing need for local food data is a priority for us.

Following Secretary Tom Vilsack’s lead to ramp up local and regional food efforts, USDA Market News – part of the Agricultural Marketing Service – issues a local beef report for the state of Vermont each month.  Two Market News reporters from Pennsylvania ventured to the Green Mountain State to meet with existing customers and recruit new ones.  Trekking all throughout the state, they visited a total of 10 farms, talked to numerous people about grass-fed beef, and learned about how Market News can better serve this sector of the industry.

USDA Market News reporters gather price and volume data from a number of small producers throughout the state. We publish these locally-raised beef prices and offer general commentary about the market in monthly Market News reports.  Being the first of its kind, this report is pioneering the way beef is marketed. It provides local price information for farmers, increases transparency in the marketplace, and enables institutions – such as banks and insurance companies – to properly assess the value of a small or mid-sized farm, which sells its commodities locally.

Through visits with local farmers and knowledge gained developing each report, Market News found that demand is strong for locally-raised beef across the state.  A vast majority of farmers in Vermont successfully market their product individually and through word-of-mouth. Most farmers sell at farmers markets, but a large portion of retail product is sold directly off the farm.  A growing number of farmers also sell their product wholesale to restaurants and schools.

Visiting with farmers was a great opportunity to not only put faces to names but to also build relationships and reach out to the community. Without the relationships with local farmers, market reporters wouldn’t be able to make sense of the market or be able to tell the story behind the numbers.  Through constant relationship building and farmer recruitment, Market News will build on this local report to make it robust and useful for the industry.

As consumer demand for local foods has grown, USDA Market News strives to deliver up-to-date information.  This report adds to the collection of reports for local and regional food outlets – available on the USDA Local & Regional Food Marketing Information webpage – which provides a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information. In the future, we plan to include more states, markets, and historic analysis to help local and regional food producers get the market data they need to improve their businesses.

USDA Market News makes our nation’s commodity markets one of the most transparent in the world and provides critical market intelligence. This year marks the 100th anniversary of USDA Market News. Our local reports are one example of how Market News works to ensure that everyone in the agricultural supply chain has the information they need when they need it.  We encourage you to take a look at our website, infographic, and video to see why for 100 years USDA Market News has been a trusted source then, now, and always.

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. These efforts are part of USDA’s commitment to support local and regional food systems.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition Farming