As Farm Bill Drafting Starts Anew, Congress Should Prioritize Healthy Food and Farm Programs

Local Food Systems Kickstart Economic Growth and Healthy Eating

Published Apr 9, 2013

WASHINGTON (April 9, 2013) – Today, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will re-introduce the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, a proposal to expand and fund programs in the Farm Bill that have proven successful at helping farmers and consumers seeking healthy, local, and organic foods. 

After failing to produce a new Farm Bill by the end of 2012, Congress extended select provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill until this September. The deal short-changed farmers and consumers in the near term, but it gave Congress another opportunity to draft a new bill to fully authorize key food and farm programs for the next five years. 

Below is a statement by Justin Tatham, senior Washington representative for UCS’s Food & Environment Program:

“January’s status-quo Farm Bill extension left a bad taste in the mouths of many farmers. The extension sliced funding for critical programs that incentivize local agriculture and healthy food production. But now Congress has another bite at the apple.

“Farmers, consumers, and the nation’s environment and public health will all benefit from the provisions of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. The legislation would reinstate support for programs that help farmers grow healthy foods for all Americans while employing modern, sustainable farming practices and fueling economic growth. 

“Current farm policies and subsidies are backwards, making the wrong foods cheaper. The government spends billions to subsidize commodity crops, like corn, which become ingredients in junk foods, animal feed, and fuel. At the same time, fruits and vegetables—the very foods we need to eat more of—receive little support. Passage of provisions from the Local Farms, Foods, and Jobs Act in the Farm Bill would begin to reorient our nation’s farm policies in a healthy direction.

Economic research tells us that local food systems—including farmers markets and community supported agriculture networks that sell fresh produce and other healthy foods direct to consumers—are the real cash cows and job creators of agriculture. 

“The more than 100,000 U.S. farms participating in these systems have generated thousands of local jobs and bolstered local economies, while helping consumers make healthier choices. These markets now represent a $5-billion-a-year industry, and are vital to small and rural communities.

“At a time when the country needs both jobs and healthier food options for millions of Americans, it is senseless for Congress to continue prioritizing junk food over fruits and vegetables. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act is needed to shift federal investments in a common sense direction.”