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Brief: USDA appoints first-ever federal committee for urban agriculture

February 3, 2022

  • The US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has named 12 members to the US Department of Agriculture‘s (USDA) inaugural Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture.
  • The committee will “provide input on policy development and to help identify barriers to urban agriculture,” a USDA statement said
  • “Urban agriculture has been growing in impact and importance, and we are taking bold actions to build a support structure [which] will complement our efforts focusing on equity, local food systems, access to safe and nutritional food, and new ways to address climate change,” Vilsack said.

Why it matters:

While the USDA is typically associated with the nation’s traditional ag sector, the creation of the urban agriculture committee suggests that it’s increasingly seeking engagement with emergent forms of agrifood production – such as tech-enabled greenhouses and vertical farms.

As an indication of this, several representatives from the agrifoodtech scene are among those selected by Vilsack to sit on the committee – such as Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of greenhouse operator Gotham Greens; and Kaben Smallwood, co-founder and CEO of aquaponics provider and consultancy Symbiotic Aquaponic.

More government investment in innovation needed for food resilience, says USDA’s Vilsack – read more here

In another recent move underlining its growing focus on food production beyond the open field and feedlot, the USDA has funded cultivated meat R&D for the first time – awarding a $10 million grant to establish the first US National Institute for Cellular Agriculture at Tufts University late last year.

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