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Ag Department encouraging entrepreneurial 'food hubs'

There are more and more young people getting into farming and Washington is now helping small farmers and the local food movement thrive.American agriculture has been shrinking the number of farms and producing larger amounts of food for many years. The Agriculture Department wants that increasing production to continue.

At the same time, it's working with new farmers to improve the distribution system and make food hubs, which connect farmers and customers, more efficient. Small farmers are working with other small businesses so a farm can produce hops or malt for a brewery, for example.

"It's a sector populated by entrepreneurs. With the increase in interest in local and regional food systems, we see an opportunity for a significant number of entrepreneurs to come in and get into this business we call farming," says Doug O'Brien, acting undersecretary for rural development.

O'Brien was raised in an Iowa farm family. He says crops are changing on the farm as immigrants bring a demand for new crops and new farmers are growing more specialized crops on smaller farms. O'Brien says food buyers want to know where there food comes from.

"With its Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which includes a website that has a wealth of resources from USDA and other federal partners on supporting local regional food systems, we're working to make sure and to support that conversation in the nation on where food comes from," O'Brien says.

O'Brien says his department is also working with farmers to become more energy efficient, whether that means solar panels or windmills or methane gas electric generators from manure and other agricultural materials. He says some of that is a result of more federal agencies working together to help.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.