USDA is heavily involved in “natural” and “organic” farming (certification, regulation, promotion, collecting economic data, lending, etc.) As in all things big government, when it gives you money to do something, it wants something in return. A few years ago I could buy unrefrigerated eggs at a farmers market (they’ll keep for weeks and taste completely different—like when when you were a kid), but last time I asked I was told they needed to follow regulations and refrigerate them before marketing. Perhaps it had been that way much longer, but the little guy I purchased from didn’t know the regulations.
Also, many people who donate to food pantries think these are church run (and they do provide that service for the government), but almost everyone along the way from farmer, to harvest, to processing, to storing at your local “food bank” is all government paid. It’s a massive loop, employing millions of people. It’s an all-growth industry feeding the poor.
The government controls competition: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5094336
USDA provides funds to publicize Farmers Markets: http://www.nutrition.gov/farmers-markets
This is an interesting article in that it doesn’t really explain the role of the federal government in food pantries. http://www.foodbankrockies.org/wp-content/uploads/Tips-for-Organizing-and-Operating-a-Food-Pantry-Program.pdf