What’s different about local foods, anyway? Fifteen years ago it was easy to dismiss the whole idea as a trendy food fashion, but now we’re talking upwards of $8 billion a year in sales. Local foods are no longer sold only in small-scale retail farmers’ markets, but have made their way into wholesale food distribution.

On the surface, it seems like a classic response by agricultural producers to supply marketplace demand. Probing deeper, there are diverse influencers and institutions that have helped make the market for local foods, and that is part of why local foods are different than conventional crops.

For years, many groups outside of agriculture have influenced ag policy. One recent example is the collaboration of the American Farm Bureau Federation with Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Wildlife Federation, who joined to oppose eligibility limits on crop insurance only if conservation compliance was included. In this case, an unlikely political coalition was based on a common interest in natural resources.