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October 24, 2011 

Celebrate the First Annual Food Day by Supporting Local Food; New Bill in Congress Would Help Healthy Farms

Statement by Jeffrey O’Hara, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (October 24, 2011) – While Americans celebrate the first annual Food Day today, experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) point out that current government policies make the wrong foods cheaper. Billions in federal subsidies underwrite the production of corn syrup and other ingredients for unhealthy processed foods, while farmers who grow fruits and vegetables receive little or no support.

With Congress on a fast track to set funding levels for the 2012 Farm and Food Bill—and with job-creation at the top of everyone’s mind—UCS says now is the time for lawmakers to embrace policies that create new jobs and encourage farmers to grow healthy food in ways that don’t damage our soil, water and air. In particular, UCS would like to see more federal support for farmers who grow healthy food for local markets. This week, Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown are expected to introduce the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act to provide guidance for Food and Farm Bill authors about programs that promote regional farm and food systems.

Below is a statement by Jeffrey O’Hara, an agricultural economist at UCS’s Food & Environment Program. O’Hara recently released a report on the economics of local food, Market Forces.

“When Americans celebrate the first annual Food Day today, they should remember that local food systems – including neighborhood farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture networks – provide rural and urban communities substantial economic and health benefits. The more than 100,000 farms selling food directly to consumers nationwide have generated thousands of local jobs and kept money circulating within communities, bolstering local economies. These markets are great examples of America’s innovative entrepreneurship. Most of these markets emerged through the tireless efforts of volunteers, community organizers, and food and farm policy advocates – and they now represent a $1-billion-a-year industry.

“But much of this phenomenal growth has happened with little help from the federal government, whose policies favor industrial commodity farms. We need a smarter federal food policy that fosters economic growth and healthier food choices. For example, if reauthorized, the Farmers Market Promotion Program could create thousands of jobs.

“The upcoming Food and Farm Bill will determine agricultural spending for the next five years. With the right provisions, it could take healthy, local food systems to the next level, kick-starting economic growth on and off the farm – and it’s vital that Congress gets that message.

“So, one of the most important thing Americans can do on Food Day is tell their representatives in Congress to support job-creating local foods initiatives in the Food and Farm Bill.”

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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