About the Workshop
Economics of Local Food Markets
Proposal Submission Deadline Extended to February 15, 2010

Local Food Markets is a high-visibility issue area distinguished by a number of economic and marketing questions that demand research-based answers.  Descriptive and quantitative analyses of local food systems are lacking despite the explosion of popular interest among farmers, consumers, retailers, and policy makers.  Local food systems are characterized by direct marketing from farmers to consumers as well as expanding derived demand in the food service and retailing sectors for foods of local or regional origin.  Most sources define “local” as food grown within 100 to 300 miles of the consumption point or within state boundaries, but even this definition is based more on geography and infrastructure than economics.

In the U.S., local food systems are composed of elements as culturally diverse as inner city gardening programs and rural farmers markets, as technologically different as electronic direct marketing and roadside stands, and as graduated in level of personal involvement as shopping for local foods at a chain retailer and buying a working share in a CSA operation.  The motivations for consuming and supplying local food are equally diverse – access to fresh food, community and local business support, food security, food safety, farm profitability, and environmental stewardship.  Researchable economic questions abound in both urban and rural contexts.

Public policy has been aggressively enacted to support growing and marketing local foods. More than forty states have programs to promote food grown within state boundaries.  Thirteen states have legislation encouraging public schools to use local foods in their meal programs.  More than 100 colleges report serving locally grown food in campus venues.  The USDA has several funding initiatives to support community food security, farmers’ market development, and producer value-added projects such as growing for local markets, as well as managing food assistance and school meal programs that have begun emphasizing local food purchases.  USDA has even launched a website and Facebook Chats to expand awareness of local foods among consumers, which it announced through Twitter.  There is every opportunity for local food systems to succeed, but there is no basis for predicting whether the policy and resource investments will pay off in public and private benefits.  

The workshop will bring together researchers, extension educators, private sector participants, and policy makers to present current research, exchange ideas and develop a common set of priority research and education needs for local food systems. Invited and selected presentations will form the framework for discussion. The synthesis of ideas that result from this workshop, along with publication of presented work, will be disseminated in a variety of relevant outlets to encourage collaboration on local foods research and extension. This effort is intended to guide future investigations and outreach. 

Format and Logistics
The workshop will be held in conjunction with the Northeast Agricultural and Resource Economics Association Annual Meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey on 15-16 June 2010. To facilitate the information exchange value of the workshop, the format will include two thematic sessions emphasizing rural and urban local food issues.  Each session will begin with a presentation by an invited speaker selected for expertise in practical or theoretical aspects of local food markets, with the goal of stimulating participants to reflect on critical economic questions.  An additional eight papers, four in each session, will be competitively selected by the organizing committee from three- to five-page abstracts submitted in response to an open call in agricultural and resource economics association newsletters and websites.  A discussant for each session will synthesize the presentations and facilitate discussion by workshop participants.  A rapporteur will record the main points to be used in preparing the policy brief and a synthesis of papers and discussion comments, which will be prepared by the organizing committee.  Presenters will be required to submit their papers for peer review and possible inclusion in a special workshop issue of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review.  Each selected speaker will receive an honorarium of $500-$1000 (depending on funding), payable on submission of the completed paper.

 Basis for Paper Selection
Submitted abstracts will be judged on the basis of originality in problem identification and methodological approach, in keeping with the need to stimulate new thinking on economic issues related to local food systems.  Other criteria include consistency with conference themes, relevance to public policy, and soundness of economic framework.  For example, papers might address the economic mechanisms by which local food systems can address public policy goals such as food access and community development, or develop a model for technically and allocatively efficient farmer to consumer markets. Case studies may be presented if they clearly demonstrate a theoretical construct that is relevant for food systems analysis. Empirical results are desirable, but papers need not be constrained by lack of data to test theoretical models if the models themselves are instructive. Submitted abstracts should indicate whether the author(s) would like the paper considered for the urban-oriented session or the rural-oriented session.

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