The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will improve federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs and will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets.
And of utmost importance, this legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.
The Benefits of Local and Regional Food Systems
Local and regional agriculture is a major economic driver in the farm economy. While in 1970 farmers markets were virtually nonexistent, there are now almost 8,000 farmers markets throughout the United States. On the heels of that expansion, we are witnessing the rapid growth of local and regional food markets that have scaled up beyond direct marketing. Local food sales now account for $5 billion annually. Together these markets represent important new job growth and economic development.
The Local Farm, Food, and Jobs Act will:
Expand Access to Healthy Foods for Consumers by:
- Improving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participant access to farmers markets, CSAs, and other direct marketing outlets by creating a level playing field for electronic benefit transfer among vendors.
- Piloting the use of mobile technologies to redeem SNAP benefits at local food markets.
- Allowing nutrition assistance benefits to be redeemed at CSAs.
- Providing options for states to implement pilot programs for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables for school meals.
- Allowing schools the option of using their AMS school lunch commodity dollars for the purchase of local and regional foods and direct USDA to support the implementation of farm-to-school demonstration projects.
- Providing $10 million for the Community Food Projects program and increasing the maximum grant term from three years to five years.
- Funding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program at $25 million annually.
Boost Income and Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers by:
- Ensuring that lenders associated with the Farm Service Agency and Farm Credit System are trained to serve local farmers, have conducted outreach, and recognize the benefits of local food production.
- Requiring that the Farm Credit Administration submit an annual report evaluating the performance of the Farm Credit System at servicing local farmers.
- Directing the Risk Management Agency to develop a “whole farm risk management insurance plan” and to offer organic crop price election for all organic crops.
- Providing funding for the organic cost share certification program, risk management education and outreach, and agricultural management assistance grants.
- Providing authority for local and regional food system funding under Regional Business Opportunity Grants, Community Facility Grants and Loans, and Rural Business Enterprise Grants.
- Making improvements to Business and Industry direct and guaranteed loans to benefit producers of local or regionally produced agricultural food products.
- Funding Value-Added Producer Grants at an annual amount of $20 million and expanding the program to include food hubs and outreach to underserved states and communities.
Improve Local and Regional Food System Infrastructure and Markets by:
- Funding the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program—the former Farmers Market Promotion Program plus funding for larger-scale, non-direct marketing—at $20 million annually.
- Directing Specialty Crop Block Grants to be used to improve farm profitability and sustainability, improve distribution of local and regional food, and increase the domestic consumption and affordability of fruits and vegetables in low-income communities.
Enhance Agriculture Research and Extension by:
- Ensuring that at least 5 percent of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative grants fund research for conventional plant and animal breeding.
- Establishing a local and regional farm and food system enterprise facilitation initiative that increases training and technical assistance for local food systems.
- Providing $5 million in funding for USDA to collect local food production data and evaluate federal programs designed to support local food systems.
- Providing food safety and inspection outreach, technical assistance, and training to small meat and poultry establishments.