Four lawmakers have introduced the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act to consolidate various local food efforts into one larger program with permanent baseline funding.
The bill’s principal authors are Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, and Sean Maloney, D-New York.
The Local Farms Act will support the continued expansion of new market opportunities for American family farmers by:
- helping farmers reach new markets through outreach, cost-share, and technical assistance programs;
- increasing access to fresh, healthy, local food among low-income groups and communities in need; and
- developing new and strengthening existing infrastructure that connects producers to consumers.
Praise for the bill
“The Local Farms Act will work to strengthen our local food system by helping to bridge the gaps that exist between local farmers and larger institutional buyers such as schools and hospitals,” said Will Reed of Native Son Farm, a certified Naturally Grown operation out of Tupelo, Mississippi, and chairman of the board for the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network. “Continuing the growth and success of our state's farm to school program is an essential step toward curbing childhood obesity and ensuring that we have another generation of farmers interested in growing food.”
“Programs that support local and regional food systems are essential to the success of our emerging generation of farmers,” said Jennifer Silveri, Director of Field Operations at Michigan Food & Farming Systems. “They are also vital for the security and integrity of our food system, and for ensuring equitable access to fresh, nutrient dense foods.”
“Times are tight right now, a farmer has to be a jack of all trades to get by,” said Andy Heck, Owner and Operator of Heck’s Harvest in Springfield, Illinois, and board president of Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “You've got to not only grow the best food, but also have a smart business plan, savvy marketing, the right training. We're not looking for a handout, we're looking for a hand up – and that’s what the Local Farms Act does. This bill gives us an opportunity to reach new markets so that we can make a decent living and keep our farms in business.”
“The Local Farms Act will provide small family farmers with the tools they need to transition to value-added enterprises, higher value consumer-driven markets and create valuable linkages to grow a more vibrant regional food economy,” said Cherie Schenker of McCune, Kansas’ Schenker Family Farms, Inc.
USDA found that in 2015 more than 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food through farmers markets, food hubs, CSAs, and other intermediate and direct market channels, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue for local producers.
“The local food market has clearly matured into an economic driver of real significance for American farmers and rural communities,” said Wes King, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition policy specialist. “The historic investments made by the 2014 Farm Bill were a major factor in driving that growth, and as Congress begins work on the next farm bill we hope that they will continue to support America’s family farmers by including the Local Farms Act in the next farm bill.”
“We stand with the Congressional sponsors of this legislation in calling for this critical investment in our food and farm future,” said Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs policy associate. “The Local Farms Act should be included in the 2018 farm bill.”
Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition