Minnesota Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota ask businesses to report food sourcing practices

A Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota partnership is surveying state businesses that source, distribute or serve food.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant funds the three-year Statewide Cooperative Partnership for Local and Regional Markets, which designed the survey.

The partnership encourages retailers, manufacturers, restaurants, co-ops, grocers and other food retailers and servers to share their food sourcing and distribution practices through the survey. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced the survey’s release Friday.

Partnership member Minnesota Grocers Association helped design the survey, which seeks baseline data on the local food supply chain around the state.

“Grocers are essential to the communities they serve and are incredibly proud of our innovative local partnerships – farm to fork,” Minnesota Grocers Association President Jamie Pfuhl said in a release. “We appreciate being a part of this collective effort to strengthen local markets and bring dynamic products to our shelves.”

The partnership will analyze the data to identify market trends and opportunities for small and medium-sized farms and support the development of MDA programming and services for these farms, the department’s website said. The partnership also intends to use the survey project to strengthen recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature that support historically underrepresented and under-supported farmers. It’s also a way to bolster data from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Services Agricultural Census, adding information about emerging farmers, direct-to-consumer, and direct-to-institutional sales.

The partnership will reenvision the Minnesota Grown program to better support small and mid-sized farms, the website said.

“We want to build on the partnerships we have with local and regional markets to help farmers, retailers, public institutions, and consumers in Minnesota,” Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said in the release. “This is a real growth opportunity for our ag economy in the coming years, and we need to understand how we can best support it.”

The roughly 20-minute survey is available through Oct. 15. Businesses can also request to answer the survey over the phone. People who complete the survey have a chance to win one of five $200 gift cards.

The Statewide Cooperative Partnership for Local and Regional Markets is in its second year. The partnership previously gathered background research through a literature review and community dialogue to survey Minnesota farmers about their production and sales.

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