Locally produced blueberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, fresh pork and beef, honey, strawberries, pecans, and peaches are just a few of the many agricultural products available to Louisiana consumers direct from the farmers that grow them. In fact, Louisiana farm families sold $7.5 million dollars of agricultural products directly to consumers in 2012, according to the Census of Agriculture published by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. This is more than three times the total value of the direct sales reported twenty years earlier in 1992.
With that in mind, a new project is underway to study the impact of local food marketing by Louisiana producers. Beginning in April 2016, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service will conduct the first-ever 2015 Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey. This project aims to provide a comprehensive look at the number of farms marketing food locally, the value of the food sold and a general understanding of the structure and economics of those farm based businesses. This project came about from the most recent Farm Bill. Additional funding for local food sector sustainability was included in that legislation and the USDA, and several of its Agencies, have programs like the Microloan Program (USDA-FSA), Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program (USDA-AMS) and the Value Added Producer Grant Program (USDA-Rural Development), all designed to help farmers.
Within the state, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture provides support for local foods through the Louisiana Grown, Farm to School, and Local Farmers' Markets programs. There are also many producer organizations that are developing ideas and working hard to promote local foods for their members. The 2015 Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey is important for all of these Federal, State and local organizations. The results will provide the first source of farm level data covering national, regional and state-level estimates that exist on local food sales, production practices, risk management, marketing channels and other aspects of this agricultural sector.
All of these organizations will benefit from an official and objective source of information that they can use to evaluate and improve each program to serve farmers better. The survey was mailed to a random sample of farmers in early April 2016. If you received a copy in the mail, please fill it out and send it back. The experts in local food production are the farmers themselves and this is your opportunity to help shape the programs available to serve you. For more information on NASS surveys and reports, call the NASS Delta Regional Office at (800) 327-2970.