Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will lead a national conference call to announce funding being provided to all 50 states through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Approximately $49 million will be provided to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. USDA selected the projects based on their support for local and rural agriculture interests, the opportunity to increase the competitiveness of small producers, or to promote or create direct marketing opportunities for specialty crop producers.
This announcement is part of United States Department of Agriculture's new 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, which strives to better connect producers and consumers to rebuild local food systems and create economic opportunity in rural America. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to promote local foods.
Consumer demand for locally grown food in the United States is expected to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012. Since May, an inter-agency USDA 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' task force has been working to align existing USDA programs with the needs of local and regional food systems; conducting outreach activities so that the linkages are understood; helping communities build local food systems by providing new initiatives; and engaging the American public in conversation about local and regional agriculture.