Three Republican Senators are asking Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to justify the Know Your Farmers, Know Your Food initiative. Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., say the program subsidizes the "locavore niche market' and "hobbyist" producers instead of rural communities and the farmers who produce the vast majority of the nation's food supply.
The Senators have asked the Secretary for an itemized breakdown of all awards made under the KYF2 initiative detailing amounts, receiving organizations and the USDA programs under which the awards were made. In a letter, the Senators wrote that the Department appears to be prioritizing Rural Development grant and loan programs for locavore projects in urban areas, apparently at the expense of rural communities with documented rural development needs.
Specifically, the Senators pointed to a memo from USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan which they said encouraged agency chiefs to take programs, such as the USDA Community Facilities Program originally intended for essential community facilities related to healthcare and public safety in rural areas, and re-imagine them as grant money for community cooking classes or refrigeration units in urban areas.