Two recent announcements by the USDA remind us all of the agency’s value as a federal partner in food and agricultural production. The USDA assists Californians in a variety of ways, from producer insurance programs to school nutrition and food security for needy families.
One announcement was a reminder that February 4 is the deadline to respond to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which the USDA conducts every five years to provide detailed data covering nearly every facet of U.S. agriculture. Decision makers at the local and national levels use the data to make decisions that directly impact farmers, their operations and their communities. The Census matters. I urge all California producers to follow through with this if they haven’t already done so.
The other announcement was tailored to new farmers and ranchers, a program called Microloan to help with credit needs of $35,000 or less. The USDA believes the loans could be helpful for start-up operations selling at farmers’ markets or through community supported-agriculture (CSAs). Programs like this are essential as the USDA and Secretary Tom Vilsack work to facilitate the introduction of 100,000 new farmers and ranchers nationwide over the next several years.
Both of these programs will help California build a foundation of sustainability to meet the ever-increasing food demands of the future, and we are grateful to the USDA for its far-sightedness in making them possible.