(July 3, 5:37 p.m.) Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to source more produce from local growers.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said over the past two years, its partnerships with local growers have grown by 50%, according to a news release.

Wal-Mart said it purchases more than 70% of its produce from U.S.-based suppliers and expects to source about $400 million in locally grown produce in the U.S. this year.

“Offering local produce has been a Wal-Mart priority for years, and we’re taking it to a new level with a pledge to grow our partnerships with local farmers,” said Pam Kohn, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager for grocery in the release. “Increasing the amount of local produce in our grocery aisles — and adding clear locally grown signage — reflects our dedication to offer the freshest products possible at great prices.”

Consumers can go to www.livebetterindex.com to see what locally grown produce is available at Wal-Mart stores in their state.

Wal-Mart features several produce companies as part of a Farmers Market feature on its locally grown Web page, www.walmart.com/locallygrown.

Among the nine featured:

  • Ridge Spring, S.C.-based Titan Farms Inc.;

  • Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC; and

  • Willard, Ohio-based Wiers Farm Inc.

The company also mentions among its local sourcing programs Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc. and a program to introduce cilantro to its Belle Glade, Fla.-based growing operations.

As part of the Florida-grown cilantro program for East Coast stores, Wal-Mart estimated it saves about 250,000 food miles a season.

What exactly is “local” is undefined, however. Nowhere in Wal-Mart’s literature does the company list regions, requirements or parameters for suppliers to meet a local definition.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. defines local produce as having traveled less than 7 hours to the distribution center.

The company does say on its locally grown Web site that it has implemented a “Food Miles Calculator, which allows our buyers to enter information on each supplier and product, determine product pickup locations and select which of our 38 food distribution centers the product will reach.”

“With this information, the calculator computes the total food miles, which the buyer can use when making buying decisions,” according to the Web site.

Calls to Wal-Mart spokespeople were not returned.