To read the full report click HEREOn Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing entitled, "Healthy Food Initiatives, Local Production and Nutrition." One of the key witnesses was USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who emphasized the importance of local food as a complement to industrial agriculture, both as a means of retaining wealth in rural communities and job creator, and as an entry point for new farmers and ranchers. The hearing’s second panel of speakers talked about the ways specific USDA programs such as Community Food Projects (CFP) and the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) are effectively stimulating farm sales and linking farmers with low-income consumers. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) opened the hearing by emphasizing that regional food hubs and local food systems help create jobs. “Local food systems mean a win-win for agriculture and the local economy,” she said. “When we buy local, we support local jobs.” In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) commented that, “Regardless of the season, consumers continue to demand more local products, and many business and markets are meeting producer demand without the need for taxpayer support.” He also noted, “all food grown in this country is local to their communities regardless of where it is sold.” Hearing witnesses pointed out that the key advantage of consumers purchasing local product in that the money remains in the regional economy longer, creating multiplier effects that are missed when production is exported to national or international markets.