Good news from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): They will launch a new website this Friday, Sept. 18, to make it easier to use Farm Bill dollars to bolster your regional economy and local foodshed. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative will corral information on the many funding opportunities available for sustainable food systems. There are opportunities for farmers, ranchers, students, universities, school districts, local governments — and maybe you! — to apply for funding for various sustainable food projects, but prior to now, it hasn't been easy to find out what's available. The website should also be packed with information and opportunities to dialogue about food sustainability. According to Ann Wright, the Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it's meant to be a "one-stop shopping" site where you can learn about ways to support sustainability, connect with helpful people and resources, get your questions answered directly by USDA personnel, and discover and apply for grants and other financial support. Wright did not specify an exact dollar amount of the funds that will be available to regional food projects, but she emphasized the current administration's dedication to supporting the needs of small food producers with initiatives such as the White House organic food garden and the new White House farmers market.
To launch the initiative, Secretary Vilsack recorded a video to invite Americans to join the discussion and share their ideas for ways to support local agriculture. The video, one of many means by which USDA will engage in this conversation, can be viewed at USDA's YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/usda. Producers and consumers can comment on the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' YouTube playlist, as well as submit videos or provide comments on this initiative by e-mailing KnowYourFarmer@usda.gov.