Mapping and Modeling Eastern U.S. Food
Production By Ann
Perry September 2, 2009
Agricultural Research Service
(ARS) scientists are mapping an array of county-level data from Maine to
Virginia on weather, soil, land use, water availability and other elements.
Then they'll use their map to model potential crop production and find out
where local food production could meet current and projected demandand
where it won't.
Until recently, low fuel prices have contributed to the globalization
of the U.S. food system. Food crops that are grown and processed in one region
are often transported over long distances to a range of different markets. As a
result, many of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. Eastern Seaboard
Region have been produced and brought in from other parts of the country or
other parts of the world.
Honeycutt and agricultural engineer
Fleisher believe that relying more on the strategic production of locally
grown food can counter the challenges of rising transport costs, growing
population demands and vanishing farmlands. Honeycutt works at the ARS
England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Orono, Maine, and
Fleisher works at the ARS
Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
Expanding the opportunities for local food production could stimulate
rural development and offset the risk of food shortages in one area by
increasing and diversifying local production in other areas. So the scientists
are collaborating with a range of partners to model actual crop production
practices and the flow of agricultural products into supply chains, including
all the associated handling and transportation costs, from farm field to
market. This will help identify how the costs and benefits of locally grown
produce compare with produce that is transported over long distances to the
Eastern Seaboard market.
about this research in the September 2009 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.