Local Food

Consensus RecommendationsAction AgendaRelated Publications

Local Food: Revitalizing Community-based Food Systems

Local food is a growing and important part of American agriculture that is evolving from the ground up to respond to diverse consumer demands. The growing appeal of local and regional food systems is their ability to connect people and places through food to ensure healthy people, farms, communities, and economies. Local food businesses are energizing young people and drawing new recruits to agriculture at a time when they are critically needed. Through local food systems, people are also often connected with a host of social values from equity to education to environmental stewardship. This dynamic interplay between commerce, place, and community distinguishes local and regional food systems and provides opportunities for local job creation, economic development, and community education about food and nutrition, among other potential benefits.

Vision: AGree envisions a 21st century food system in which farms and ranches are productive and able to meet growing demand for affordable and nutritious food; farming and ranching are profitable enterprises that support vibrant local and regional economies; and environmental quality is maintained or improved. AGree believes one strategy for achieving this vision is strengthening and revitalizing local and regional food systems that bring together agricultural production, health, nutrition, social justice and anti-hunger interests, as well as those working to grow local economies and strengthen livelihoods. Our vision for American agriculture embraces the full spectrum of options, recognizing that local and regional food systems are a growing component.

Strategy: AGree embraces diverse agricultural systems to achieve sustainability, productivity, and profitability goals. The Local Food Initiative seeks to support the growth of vibrant, profitable, equitable, and self-sustaining community-based food systems by advancing the following strategies:

  • Retain the flexibility needed to allow local and regional market actors and state and local authorities to define local food for their given situations and purposes. For certain federal funding sources and programs, a definition, such as the one provided in the 2008 Farm Bill, may be necessary to determine eligibility, but care should be taken to retain a dominant role for local stakeholders.
  • Catalyze data collection and information sharing in order to empower local connectivity, coordination, and investment in local and regional food systems.
  • Adapt U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) programs and regulations to better serve local food systems.
  • Support research to understand demand for local food and to quantify the economic, environmental, and social benefits and costs of local food systems to inform investment.
  • Incorporate diverse stakeholders and enhance interagency cooperation in order to integrate local food system development into the broader context of equitable economic development, environmental protection, regional planning, and community health and wellbeing.

Consensus Recommendations: Local Food: Revitalizing Community-based Food Systems

Our paper addresses a number of important enabling factors for local food systems as well as the series of challenges faced by these systems. Factors include leadership; adequate access to credit and capital, risk management tools, and farmland; training; data and information; infrastructure; and regulatory support, among others.

Action Agenda

AGree is engaged on several fronts to support the strengthening and expansion of local food systems. These efforts are occurring within the context of AGree’s Local Food Initiative, but also in our work to catalyze action across all eight AGree Initiatives, driven by a series of consensus recommendations. Ongoing work includes:

  1. Supporting local food systems through AGree’s Next Generation, Working Lands, Research & Innovation, and Food & Nutrition Initiatives by advocating for policy and regulatory changes that strengthen and revitalize local and regional food systems.
  2. Connecting and catalyzing local food efforts among diverse groups that may contribute directly to the expansion of local food systems or indirectly by improving policies, regulations or programs that impact local food systems.
  3. Creating a broader understanding of the role of local food systems in connecting production agriculture, sustainability, nutrition and health, and food access and equity.

Related Publications

A Call to Action for the Trump Administration | Elevate Food and Agriculture as a National Priority:

President Trump has highlighted the importance of agriculture and said he expects his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Governor Sonny Perdue, to "deliver big results." AGree is standing by to assist. 4 pages. February 2017.


A Call to Presidential Action | Elevating Food and Agriculture as a National Priority:

The right food and agricultural policies can improve the health of America’s families, economy, farms and the environment, as outlined in recommendations AGree is presenting to presidential candidates. AGree’s Call to Action provides core elements in a strategy for elevating food and agriculture as a national priority. 4 pages. January 2016.

Local Food: Revitalizing Community-based Food Systems:

AGree's Recommendations on Local Food. September 2015.

New and Unique Provisions in the Agricultural Act of 2014:

This paper analyzes the Agricultural Act of 2014, which was signed into law by President Obama on February 7, 2014, following a long and contentious legislative journey. The paper explains new and unique aspects of programs such as conservation; crop insurance; the farm safety net; nutrition; food aid reform; local and regional food systems; and assistance to beginning farmers. Stephanie Mercier, 12 pages. March 2014.

Vision, Mission and Principles:

Document includes AGree’s vision for 2030, its mission, and six principles that AGree will use to guide its work. 3 pages. May 2012.

Challenges and Strategies:

This document describes four interconnected challenges confronting the global food and agriculture system. The challenges necessitate changes in U.S. policy and demand innovative private sector and civil society actions. To address these challenges, AGree has identified a comprehensive framework of strategies that, together, address the four challenges. 33 pages. May 2012.

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