Until recently, local and regional food system development efforts have emphasized small scale direct marketing activities, while food freight transportation policy and planning have primarily focused on distribution infrastructure for large-scale commodity products. As the demand for local food continues to increase, innovative and scale-appropriate infrastructure and expertise are needed to respond to the market pull.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified a need to direct applied research resources to focus on transportation and distribution issues in order to facilitate effective growth in local and regional food systems. Through collaboration between USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) a new approach emerged. The USDA and CIAS researchers saw a great need for providing an opportunity for networking and sharing of perspectives among the diverse groups of regional food suppliers and the established freight transportation providers.
The collaboration led to the Networking Across the Supply Chain (NASC) conference that served as the venue to accomplish the objectives of fostering information exchange, networking, and collaboration between the participants of the food supply chain. This report presents the conference overview with its key themes and findings as well as emergent strategies and innovative solutions to help bring regional food to regional markets.