Albuquerque, Jan 18, 2012 -- Earlier today, USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner participated in a Food System Summit held in Farmington, New Mexico.
The four hour summit is the first meeting organized by USDA Rural Development, USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm to Table New Mexico, Southwest Cooperative Development Center and other food service and food resource providers to address various food delivery related challenges in the Four Corners area.
In his opening remarks Brunner said, “New Mexico is one of the most food insecure states in the Nation. That means that our residents have many challenges in accessing fresh meat and produce.” Brunner added, “Today’s summit is helping put together some of the pieces that are needed for a more secure food distribution systems for residents of the northwest part of our state.”
The Food System Summit invited over 200 regional food entrepreneurs, stakeholders and others together to develop a strategy to create a better regional food delivery system. This strategy will address issues such as making sufficient quantities and quality of food available and having the resources and education to obtain foods to create a nutritious diet.
To achieve these goals an assessment on the current food system in the Four Corners area will be made to see what is working and what areas need to be improved. Those areas that will be studied include food production, processing, distribution, access and consumption.
During the summit it was pointed out that USDA Rural Development has over a dozen business cooperative and community facility loan and grant programs that can assist communities in their food initiatives.
One such program is the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program which provides opportunities to agricultural producers for projects that use existing products in non-traditional ways such as turning chili into salsa.
Rural Development’s Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan program can also support food production, distribution and consumption of locally grown foods by providing needed financial support to small businesses such as grocery stores.
Immediately following the summit various stakeholder began their initial meetings and started the planning process to develop the food delivery system strategy in the Four Corners area. It has also been decided the next set of food delivery strategy meetings will begin in February.
USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at any local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov