Cornucopia’s Take: The Local FARMS Act was written with the help of several nonprofits, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, in order to support the expansion of market opportunities for family farmers. This type of practical legislation holds promise for the good food movement.
Local FARMS Act Will Make Farm to Fork Investments in American Communities
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Praises Bipartisan Effort
A bipartisan coalition led by principal bill authors Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Sean Maloney (D-NY), introduced the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (the “Local FARMS Act”) to catalyze the 2018 Farm Bill’s investment in programs and policies that spur economic development in rural and food producing communities nationwide. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), one of the bill’s leading non-profit partners, praised the bipartisan coalition for prioritizing the development of new markets for farmers and expanded healthy food access for American families.
“The Local FARMS Act is a priority for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition because it recognizes the vast, untapped potential in our farming and food producing communities and offers ways to transform that potential into economic prosperity,” said Wes King, NSAC Policy Specialist. “As others have rightly noted, the farm bill is not just an ‘agriculture bill,’ it’s a jobs bill too. The Local FARMS Act means opportunity for our family farmers, as well as increased access to fresh, healthy foods for American families.”
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.
Farmers from across the country have been quick to praise the Local FARMS Act’s farm to fork investment approach:
“From economic development to community health, local food production is key to solving many of the challenges facing Mississippi,” said Will Reed of Native Son Farm, a certified Naturally Grown operation out of Tupelo, MS, and chairman of the board for the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network. “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. 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 (MIFFS). “They are also vital for the security and integrity of our food system, and for ensuring equitable access to fresh, nutrient dense foods. The farmers and organizations that rely on these programs to support farm and food systems across the country have spent a lot of their time, energy and resources on advocating for Congress’ support. We hope that Congress will take up the measures of the Local FARMS Act and that time and energy will have been well spent.”
“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. Over the years, Schenker Family Farms has received three USDA Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), which have helped them to develop and launch their value-added product line. Value-added products, which include things like bread, apple cider, and honey, bring in added income for farmers and also help them to diversify their risk and revenue. Schenker is also a member of the Kansas Rural Center.
As the American farm economy struggles through a multi-year downturn, family farmers have increasingly turned to opportunities in the local and regional food markets as a way of sustaining and even growing their businesses. USDA’s Economic Research Service has found that farmers’ bets on local have paid off – farmers who market food directly to consumers have a greater chance of remaining in business than similarly sized farms that market through traditional channels. Additionally, USDA found that in 2015 alone over 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 King. “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.”
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net