Local foods research leads to USDA Abraham Lincoln Award

It should not be surprising that one of the most prestigious awards given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is called the Abraham Lincoln Award. It also should not be surprising that a Colorado State University faculty member was part of a team that received the Personal and Professional Excellence Abraham Lincoln Award “for exceptional achievement and outstanding contribution to American Agriculture” for work on local food trends and impacts.

Becca Jablonski
Becca Jablonski

Becca Jablonski, assistant professor in CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, worked with researchers from the USDA’s Economic Research Service on a congressionally mandated report examining local and regional food systems, which have become an industry of more than $9 billion in recent years.

“Our work found that producer participation in local food systems is growing, as is the value of local food sales,” Jablonski said. “There appear to be opportunities for farms and ranches selling through these markets as consumers are willing to pay a premium for products labeled as ‘local.’ The verdict, however, is still out on the economic and environmental impacts that result from participation in these markets.”

Evaluating impact

“Our hope is that this work can be used to inform policy development around local and regional food systems,” said Jablonski. “Between 2009 and 2015 the USDA invested over $1 billion in supporting local and regional food systems. Yet, there has not been sufficient evaluation of the impact of these investments. Our work was congressionally mandated as part of the 2014 Appropriations Bill to better understand the scope of and trends in local and regional food markets.”

Jablonski is one of several researchers in CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics whose work is in the area of the economics of food systems, not just in Colorado but across the country. Their research has been used to foster rural and regional economic development, to increase profitability for small, midscale and beginning farmers and ranchers, and support opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation up and down the supply chain.

In addition to the USDA’s Abraham Lincoln Award, the report also received Honorable Mention for Quality of Communication from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. The Quality of Communication Award is granted to encourage excellence in publications in fields of agricultural, development, environmental, food and consumer, natural resource, regional, rural and associated areas of applied economics and business.

The team’s full report can be found here.