Prior to the Obama administration, the USDA had very little interest in providing support to the local food movement. There was nothing similar to the current Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Program. Recall that the KFKF campaign was developed over the strong opposition of many Republicans; see Senators Challenge Know Your Farmer.
The USDA, under the leadership of Secretary Vilsack now provides a wide range of resources and support related to KFKF, all within the existing budget, including:
- Support for Food Hubs to support and encourage regional food systems
- The Compass map system for local and regional food providers
- Grant funding, loans, and support for local and regional food producers and systems
- Promotion of gardening through the Peoples Garden, and a wide range of informational resources
- Support for Hoop Houses to extend the growing season for northern fruit and vegetable farmers, considered to be one of the most important developments for economic sustainability of small farming operations
- Promotion of use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets
- Promotion of Farm to School Programs
First Lady's Let's Move campaign, one of her signature areas of emphasis
Revision of USDA nutrition guidelines to incorporate My Plate and its graphic portrayal of the importance of fruits and vegetables
- New Dietary Guidelines stressing fruit and vegetable consumption
- Revised guidelines for School Lunch programs to focus on better foods.
I cannot address former Governor Romney's ideas on agricultural or food policy. But, we have a record of four years of USDA policies in support of local/regional foods. And, it is clear that this represents a dramatic shift from prior USDA policies that the Obama administration can claim as its own. Whether that shift continues may well be determined next week in the election.