NSAC: Farm Bill Measure Would Support Local, Healthy Food Options

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Amendment from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) invests in programs that help families buy local, eat healthy.

"By increasing access to fresh, local foods, we can expand markets for agricultural producers in Ohio and around the country while improving health, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy." Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

The Senate is expected to debate the 2013 Farm Bill this week and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced a critical amendment that will have a transformative impact on our food and farm system. The “Amendment to encourage food and agriculture market development, entrepreneurship, and education” will be part of the debate this week.

"Senator Brown's amendment makes strategic investments and changes to programs, such as the Value-Added Producer Grant and Farmers Market Promotion Programs, that have a proven record of growing Ohio's sustainable food businesses and family farms,” said Carol Goland, Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, Ohio. “The Senator's leadership will benefit communities throughout Ohio and the nation by expanding new farming and food business opportunities, bolstering the local economy, and providing increased access to fresh, nutritious food."

If you have shopped at a farmers’ market lately or noticed more local produce at your local grocery store or restaurant, you already know that local food means local farmers feeding communities and creating jobs. It’s a win-win for farmers and for all consumers. The Brown amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill can help create a better future for our nation’s food & farms.

The Brown amendment increases funding for critical programs that directly help farmers and communities put solutions into action on the ground. These programs make it possible for low-income seniors to access fresh, healthy produce from local farmers. They make it possible for farmers to expand their operations into new products – like freezing fresh veggies for schools to use during winter months. They make it possible for communities to build their own food solutions from the ground up – like farmer-owned food businesses, food hubs, mobile groceries, urban farms, and youth-led healthy eating programs.

“Thanks to the Value-added Producer Grant we received, Lucky Penny Farm has been able to build the infrastructure necessary to launch the production of Cajeta, a product similar to dulche de leche.” Said Abbe Turner, Owner, Lucky Penny Farm & Creamery, Kent, OH. “Since receiving the grant we have not only grown our own business, but have partnered with seven additional family farmers helping to grow their businesses too. When funding is allocated through programs like VAPG to small food- and farm-based entrepreneurs, it improves the economic well-being of rural and urban communities by creating new products, new markets and new revenue streams where there otherwise might not have been.”

Among the hundreds of amendments the Senate will debate in the coming days, this one stands out – it’s got the potential to make a real difference on the ground and in the lives of farmers and communities. This amendment was drawn from the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act. Senator Brown is the lead sponsor of that bill.

“Linking Ohio producers with Ohio consumers is common sense,” Sen. Brown said. “By increasing access to fresh, local foods, we can expand markets for agricultural producers in Ohio and around the country while improving health, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy.”

For more information on the Farm Bill process, click here for an easy infographic. For more information on amendments, please see the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition rundown of what’s at stake.

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Programs affected by the Brown amendment include:

  •     The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP) has since 1996 helped people get access to healthy food by promoting self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities. USDA Community Food Project home page. Brown amendment increases funding for CFPCGP.
  •     The Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program will advance children’s nutritional health and education in underserved communities, both urban and rural, by increasing the number of national service members working in K 12 schools to engage children in experiential learning about agriculture, gardening, nutrition, cooking and where food comes from. The Brown amendment establishes this program.
  •     The Value-Added Producer Grant Program enables eligible farmers to develop businesses that produce and market value-added agricultural products. Eligible applicants must be an independent producer, agricultural producer group, farmer or rancher cooperative, or majority-controlled producer-based business venture. USDA example. USDA’s VAPG homepage - here. The Brown amendment increases funding for the grant program.
  •     The Business and Industry Loan Program, which improves the economic climate in rural communities, includes a subprogram for local and regional food enterprises. USDA background and example. The Brown amendment improves the local and regional food lending program to create new market opportunities for farmers, increase good food access in underserved communities and support comprehensive regional economic development.
  •     The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program is designed to support not only direct producer-to-consumer marketing but also scaled-up local and regional food marketing. The Brown amendment increases funding for this critical program.
  •     The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program awards grants to States, U.S. Territories, and Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs. Participating state agencies, map of participating state agencies, USDA SFMNP homepage. The Brown amendment would increase funding for this program.

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Ferd Hoefner
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