Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Reinvigorating the Rural Economy

The material below has a familiar ring for many Australian food producers.........would this country also benefit from some similar facilities closer to production sites?

North Australia is a classic example with absolute minimal cattle slaughter occuring in the region, yet with significant cities as food consumers. One major retailer used to ship mangoes from Katherine to NSW, then bring them back for the supermarket, even though grown locally!

I know some interest is occurring in the NW of WA in slaughter house development, and more needs to happen in or near Darwin and Cairns, the larger cities. It might allow some local producers to develop a finishing system for local stock. Pasture systems such as leucaena / grass can finish stock very well, equal to feed lot performance, and that has been known for over 30 years.

While north australia cannot grow many temperate vegetables, some do perform very well in the dry season.

Can we do better with more local food for the mainstream consumer?

US re-envisions its rural economy
01 Jun, 2010 01:58 PM

THE Obama Administration has a vision to rebuild the country's rural economy that includes creating a parallel universe of local and regional markets and "food hub" distribution centers that will help small - maybe even all - farmers market their production closer to home.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Agriculture released a "gap analysis" that maps the locations of small livestock producers by county and compares production to the availability of small slaughter processing facilities as well as rendering plants. The study was conducted as part of USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said local food marketing is one of the ways USDA hopes to rebuild the rural economy, which he noted has been on the decline for many years.

The Administration also supports initiatives aimed at deploying more broadband telecommunications technology in rural areas as well as renewable energy projects.

On a recent press call, Vilsack reported that the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "was in our office recently trying to figure out how to expand the connection between farmers and their local store."

Vilsack predicted that if a major retailer such as Walmart is looking at local suppliers, other big chains probably will not be far behind.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan suggested that more information will be forthcoming on USDA's initiative to help local areas establish livestock slaughter facilities or mobile slaughter - perhaps this month.

Meanwhile, maps showing where current small livestock operations are located in reference to local slaughter plants - by animal species as well as a consolidated map - are available from USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service is surveying the locations of regional food hubs as part of the Know Your Farmer initiative.

Food hubs are aggregation points - similar, in some ways, to co-operatives - where farmers can bring goods that are inspected and graded for resale to wholesalers.

The food hubs provide storage and logistics services for buyers and sellers and have been "hugely successful" in some areas of the country, a USDA official reported.

The food hubs often are "hybrids" that combine a traditional wholesale market with a retail farmers market, the official added.

In yet another aspect of the initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed a pilot project for farmers who wish to extend their growing season using "hoop houses."

NRCS chief Dave White explained that the hoop houses, which shelter plants under plastic, not only extend the growing season but provide some soil and water conservation benefits for landowners.
Interest in the hoop houses "has been astounding", he reported: More than 1000 growers have contracts under the three-year pilot project.

The hoop house pilot project, which is expected to be offered again this year, is funded with $10 million from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which is "less than 1 per cent" of the program's total funding, White reported.

As part of its rural development strategy, USDA will host the "The National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue for Renewing Promise" on June 3 at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.

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