Trends in Local and Regional Food Production and Sales

Local Food ReportA new Report to Congress has just been released by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) entitled Trends in Local and Regional Food Systems. Here are some highlights and a link to the full report:

Producer participation in local food systems is growing, and the value of local food sales, defined as the sale of food for human consumption through both direct-to-consumer (e.g., farmers’ markets) and intermediated marketing channels (e.g., sales to institutions or regional distributors), appears to be increasing. In 2012, 163,675 farms (7.8 percent of U.S. farms) were marketing foods locally, defined as conducting either direct-to-consumer (DTC) or intermediated sales of food for human consumption, according to census of agriculture data. Of these farms, 70 percent used only DTC marketing channels, which include farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangements. The other 30 percent used a combination of DTC and intermediated channels or only intermediated channels. The number of farms with DTC sales increased by 17 percent and sales increased by 32 percent between 2002 and 2007; however, between 2007 and 2012 the number of farms with DTC sales increased 5.5 percent, with no change in DTC sales. That DTC sales did not increase may be due to plateauing consumer interest or to growth in non-direct sales of local food (i.e., local food sold through intermediated marketing channels like grocery stores or institutions), the value of which is not measured by the census of agriculture. Agricultural Resource and Management Survey (ARMS) and census of agriculture data indicate that local food sales totaled an estimated $6.1 billion in 2012. This is only an estimate because neither data source collects complete information on the value of intermediated sales. Farms with gross cash farm income below $75,000 accounted for 85 percent of local food farms in 2012, according to census data. These farms are estimated to account for only 13 percent of local food sales. Local food farms with gross cash farm income above $350,000 accounted for 5 percent of local food farms and 67 percent of sales. Farms selling local food through DTC marketing channels were more likely to remain in business over 2007-12 than all farms not using DTC marketing channels, according to census of agriculture data. Farms with DTC sales tended to experience smaller increases in sales than all other farms, however. You can read the full report at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ap-administrative-publication/ap-068.aspx

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