Rural America: New Markets, New Understanding, Unlimited Opportunity
At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we work with thousands of farmers, ranchers and rural communities every day and we know that there is no limit to the economic potential of rural America. Rural areas provide a great deal to Americans everywhere - an abundant food supply, outdoor recreation, clean water, renewable energy and more.
USDA has undertaken historic new investments to help farmers and rural businesses seek out and develop groundbreaking partnerships. Our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative, for example, is helping rural communities access USDA resources and programs to help spur economic development and create jobs in persistent poverty areas of rural America.
These investments are creating new markets - both for farmers and for business - in four key areas:
- Opening Foreign Markets: USDA has opened more markets abroad for U.S. commodities - helping the Obama Administration secure new agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. These agreements will generate new markets for U.S. farmers and ranchers to the tune of more than $2 billion per year in additional exports.
- Breaking Down Barriers: USDA has removed numerous barriers to U.S. trade. Since 2012, we have removed unfair restrictions to help farmers provide more U.S. apples to South Africa, potatoes and beef to Japan, organic produce to the European Union, and more.
- Researching New Methods: USDA scientists and university partners are conducting research every day to help farmers and businesses grow and produce more. In recent years they have revealed the genetic blueprints of apples, pigs, and turkeys. In 2012, they furthered understanding of the tomato, bean, wheat and barley genomes.
Local and Regional Food Systems
- Creating Local Markets: In 2009, USDA launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to help bridge the gap between farmers and consumers. Our efforts have helped increase the number of farmers markets to over 8,100 nationwide.
- Furthering Regional Businesses: USDA is helping create strong regional supply chains and the jobs that come with them. USDA invests in local food infrastructure - from cold storage facilities, to processing plants, to food hubs that aggregate products from many farms and help smaller producers reach larger buyers. There are over 230 food hubs in operation nationwide today.
- Making Resources More Accessible: USDA has a variety of resources available to help every part of a regional food system grow stronger and contribute to local economies. Sometimes the best lessons learned are from other communities who have forged a successful path. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass maps out where USDA and 11 other federal agencies have invested in local and regional food systems to encourage community development and peer to peer learning.
- Pursuing Expanding Markets: Schools, hospitals, retailers and other institutional and wholesale buyers are a rapidly expanding market opportunity for local producers and an investment into local economies. USDA's Farm to School, for example, efforts are working directly with producers and schools to supply over $350 million in local food, reaching over 21 million students in school cafeterias and investing in the health of America's next generation.
The Biobased Economy
- USDA has helped create markets for advanced biofuels from non-food, non-feed sources - from the farm field to the end user.
- Growing New Fuel: USDA helped jumpstart efforts to provide a reliable supply of advanced plant materials for biofuels. In 2010, USDA established a program to incentivize hundreds of growers and landowners farming nearly 60,000 acres of advanced biofuel feedstocks for energy conversion facilities.
- Creating New Infrastructure: To ensure those feedstocks are put to use, USDA has invested in the work needed to create advanced biofuels refineries. Since 2009, USDA has invested in efforts to create 9 new advanced refineries nationwide. We have also created six regional research centers across America to develop advanced biobased energy technology that's appropriate to every region.
- Putting Innovation to Use: USDA has worked with agencies across the government to strengthen markets for the use of advanced biofuels. This includes the U.S. Navy, which has undertaken efforts with USDA to create a "Great Green Fleet" of ships and aircraft that run on the next generation of advanced biofuel.
Conservation and Natural Resources
- Water Quality Markets: USDA has supported States and other partners in their efforts to establish water quality trading markets. Through three regional initiatives, USDA is demonstrating the potential for farmers and ranchers to receive new revenue streams while delivering cost effective results for businesses regulated under the Clean Water Act.
- New Conservation Tools: USDA is preparing new greenhouse gas estimation guidelines for farmers, ranchers, and rural land owners. These tools will assess greenhouse gas reductions and carbon sequestration from conservation activities - an important step to helping farmers earn revenue for their work to help the environment.
- New Uses for Wood: USDA scientists conduct research on the use of wood, helping companies meet green building design standards and creating jobs using forest products. Forest Service research into wood-based nanotechnology is leading the way to plant-based construction materials, body armor, and more. USDA scientists even worked with Major League Baseball to reduce the occurrence of broken baseball bats.
- A New Strategy in the Forest: USDA adopted and is now implementing a new planning rule for 193 million acres of USDA-managed National Forests. This modern plan will help develop land management practices that protect water and wildlife while creating stronger and more dependable supplies of wood products and other natural resources.
Inspiring and innovative work is going on across the country today - from our smallest towns to our biggest cities. USDA will continue investing to build partnerships and further innovation. Together, we can grow more prosperity in rural America, and grow the bottom line for American business.