Wal-Mart Goes Local: Good or Bad for Small Farmers?

The nation’s largest retailer announced last week that it’s going local through its Heritage Agriculture program. Wal-Mart plans to double its sale of “locally grown food” by 2015 in all of its U.S. stores and also support small and mid-sized farmers in their movement toward sustainable food production. The new initiative will invest Wal-Mart in the local food system (“local” meaning food that’s grown and sold within the same state) and increase the company’s total percentage of locally grown produce to 9 percent by 2015. The goal by this time is to have sold $1 billion worth of food from 1 million farmers, increasing the farmers’ income by 10 to 15 percent over the next three years. Wal-Mart also promises a Sustainability Index will be made available in all of its stores so consumers have information about production methods and the products used right at their fingertips. “It may seem out of character for Wal-Mart to act as an agent for positive change,” writes Ari LeVaux on Alternet.org. “But remember: the only thing Wal-Mart could do that would truly be out of character would be to knowingly undermine its bottom line.”

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