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Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan Brings USDA's College Tour to New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M., March 26, 2012 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today provided highlights of how New Mexico can tap into USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, which promotes local and regional food systems across the country as a way to create additional economic opportunities, expand healthy food access and meet growing customer demand. While discussing food systems policy with students, faculty and community leaders at New Mexico State University, Merrigan outlined these efforts and the administration's broader plan to create jobs in New Mexico.

"USDA works every day to strengthen American agriculture, drive job growth and support farm families," said Merrigan. "New Mexico's agricultural industry is very diverse. We are helping to expand economic opportunities in the state by supporting that diversity. Many farmers, ranchers and businesses are getting involved in local and regional food systems – these additional market opportunities mean new jobs on farms and ranches and in processing, distribution, retail and other sectors."

USDA recently unveiled the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass, an interactive web-based document and map highlighting USDA support for local and regional food projects and successful producer, business and community case studies. The KYF Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map showing local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content.

Later in the day, Merrigan joined local community and business leaders at Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico (CAASNM) to discuss economic development in rural America. CAASNM is using funding from USDA's Rural Development agency to provide direct one-to-one business development counseling and technical assistance with child care providers and other entrepreneurs. USDA's investment in the community is part of the department's efforts to improve the economic condition of rural areas by supporting education efforts that offer the expertise to assist individuals in the startup, expansion or improvement of their small rural business.

USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems. 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' is helping to break down barriers that keep local food systems from thriving; to create new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities; and to expand access to healthy food.

The 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' website, at, features social media tools to help focus the public conversation about farming and food, while engaging American agriculture and linking producers to customers.


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