Farm Progress

Democratic senators look to expand urban agriculture assistance

Fetterman bill would mandate $50 million in annual spending.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

July 31, 2023

2 Min Read
urban farm
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Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., is leading an effort to improve USDA programs supporting urban and suburban agriculture. On Friday, he introduced the Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act of 2023. The bill would reform programs overseen by the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, commonly known as OUAIP. He says those changes will improve the content and delivery of technical assistance to urban and innovative producers. It would also enable cooperative agreements with community experts, increase access to grant funding and promote composting and food waste initiatives.

“I came to Washington to fight for forgotten communities and urban areas are notably underserved when it comes to food security and nutrition,” Fetterman says. “As chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee, I am proud to introduce this bill that will combat food deserts and malnutrition in urban areas and support small, beginning, and underserved farmers. My legislation will increase existing investments in PA agriculture through vertical farms, community gardens, and much more.”

Joining Fetterman as co-sponsors were Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Bob Casey, D-Pa, Ed Markey, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

The bill would establish $50 million in mandatory annual funding for OUAIP. Both the House and Senate Appropriation Committees recently eliminated funding for that program. Supporters of the bill say that OUAIP is critical to bolstering local food supply chains in urban communities and investing in innovative production.

“As urban agriculture grows across Pennsylvania and the nation, it’s critical we support urban farmers with the resources they need to thrive,” Sen. Casey says. “The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act will connect farmers with federal grants and bolster innovation and research, helping our agricultural producers adapt our food production to meet the evolving demands of the future.”

Organizations endorsing the legislation include the CEA Alliance, Fair Food Network, Food Trust, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, ReImagine Appalachia, RAFI-USA, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Produce Perks Midwest, Farm to Table NM, Local Matters, Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Michigan Food & Farming Systems and the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition.

NSAC Policy Specialist Hannah Quigley says OUAIP has been essential to strengthening networks of growers and consumers through infrastructure, education, and local planning initiatives among urban, suburban, and rural communities. She says the bill will address the unique needs of urban, innovative and indoor operations, increase access to program funding and scale the office to meet rapidly growing demand.

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About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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