Wednesday, June 24, 2009

National workshop on local food systems fills up, so it will be telecast online Friday

Consumer interest in food that is locally and regionally grown has increased sharply. While locally grown food still accounts for a small share of total sales, it is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture. On Friday, June 26, issues related to local foods will be examined at a one-day workshop in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture and Farm Foundation. Since registration has filled the capacity of the meeting room, a live, online broadcast of the workshop is planned for the day of the event. To register for that live broadcast, click here.

There are many questions about the impacts of local food systems on environmental and human health, food safety, marketing arrangements, and rural development. It also remains unclear what types of economic tradeoffs are associated with growth in local foods, and no consensus exists on the appropriate role for government programs and policies in local food systems. The workshop is designed to describe the size and scope of local food systems; discuss how performance of local food markets is evaluate; critically examine measures of local food market performance, including price and product availability, impacts on rural economic development, environmental consequences and sustainability, food safety and quality, and social welfare issues; assess the economics of local foods by discussing supply and demand issues related to local food systems, as well as marketing considerations involved in the industry; explore the range of current government involvement in local food systems, including existing programs that foster local food distribution at the federal, state, and local levels, potential unintended consequences arising from public sector involvement, and barriers to growth in local food systems; and examine the appropriate role for future government involvement in local food systems.

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