WCL: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joins host chat to talk about his trip to Chicago and the new initiatives of the USDA.

MyPlate is USDA's new generation icon, launched one year ago, with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times and to seek more information to help them do that by going to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. The new MyPlate icon emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups, all of which can be accessed with the fresh products from small and specialty crop producers. More information on MyPlate can be found at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/myplate/pressrelease.pdf

Farm to School and Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiatives:
A Farm to School Team was established late in 2009 as a result of discussions within the USDA-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which seeks to create new economic opportunities by promoting local and regional food systems that help keep wealth in rural communities. These discussions focused on the need to develop strategies to enhance market opportunities for local farmers as well as the need to better connect farmers with consumers and thereby increase public understanding of American agriculture. Farm to School was quickly identified as a strategy that could potentially contribute to both goals. For more information or to view the report, please visit the USDA Farm to School website at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S/.

Increased Farmers Markets:
USDA's 2011 National Farmers Market Directory annual report showed that 7,175 farmers markets operate throughout the country, as more farmers are marketing their products directly to consumers than ever before. That's more than 1,000 new farmers market than 2010! Additionally, USDA recently announced that winter farmers markets increased to over 1,200 markets. Since 2010, that number increased 38%. The remarkable growth in farmers markets is an excellent indicator of the staying power of local and regional foods. They provide economic benefits for producers to grow their businesses and also to communities by providing increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods. USDA has over two dozen programs to help build local and regional food systems. Through our Farmers Market Promotion Program, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and hoop house pilot program, small local and regional producers are benefiting from an unprecedented focus on their success.