It’s no secret that the US Department of Agriculture is a friend of Big Agriculture and the factory farming system. This agency is supposed to “provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.” But in most cases they’ve simply ignored the science, and done what’s best for Big Ag lobbyists from Monsanto and the like.
That’s not to say the USDA can’t also do some helpful things, however.
Just recently, the USDA awarded $40.2 million in grants to farmers, ranchers and farmer-controlled rural business ventures aimed at spurring locally produced food supplies and renewable energy ventures. In total there were 298 recipients in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
Recipients included Living Water Farms, a 3-year old family company located in Strawn, Illinois, two hours south of Chicago, which produces hydroponic greens for restaurants and grocers; Agriberry, a family-owned berry and fresh fruit operation near Mechanicsville, Virginia; and Green Mountain Organic Creamery of North Ferrisburgh, Vt., which markets certified organic, bottled pasteurized milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy products.
“These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country,” Merrigan said in a statement.
“This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services.”
Additionally, the USDA is starting to pay more attention to farming operations in urban areas, rather than the rural countryside we all picture when someone says “farm.”
Not only do urban farming operations make it possible for people in big cities like Chicago and New York to access fresh food grown within 100 miles of their residence, but they also provide an opportunity for urban and under-served populations to experience the joys of growing their own food.
Growing Home, a Chicago not-for-profit business that uses urban farming of vegetables as community development and job training for ex-convicts and the unemployed, and Farmed Here, an “aeroponic” and “vertical” farm in an Englewood building where basil and arugula are grown in water under controlled conditions and supply 20 local food stores and restaurants, are two worthy examples.
While this is a step in the right direction for the USDA, they’ve still got a long way to go before they can be considered an ally of the small, local farmer.
You can read more about the grants and their recipients in this Reuters article.
Image Credit: Flickr – USDAgov