As you know, producers are responding to skyrocketing demand for local food by increasing production, creating new markets, and launching new businesses. Locally marketed foods accounted for an estimated $4.8 billion in gross sales in 2008, whilethe number of farmers markets nationwide jumped 17 percent in 2011. Despite these growing opportunities, producers face significant infrastructure, marketing, and information barriers that limit growth in local agriculture. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 1773, H.R. 3286), written by Representative Chellie Pingree and co-sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown (and co-sponsored by 78 other legislators), seeks to improve dozens of federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farmers and food systems.
What will LFFJA do for farmers markets?
• Increase funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program to $20 M annually to create a Local Marketing Promotion Program that also include direct and short-supply chain local food projects
• Increase support for Specialty Crop Block Grants to $90 M annually and encourage local and regional crop and market development
• Address the need for electronic benefit transfer capabilities at farmers markets and encourage SNAP Education and Outreach programs to use farmers markets and other direct marketing outlets as a venue for nutrition education
• Increase funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) to $25M per year
This bill’s total investment of less than one-sixth of one percent of USDA’s budget would address the needs of a large and growing sector of American agriculture as well as boost community economies. A one pager is available on FMC’s web site here, and attached.
The Expanding Access to Farmers Markets Act (S. 1593), sponsored by Senator Gillibrand (NY) is more targeted than the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, and would:
• Provide farmers markets with wireless, mobile equipment to process SNAP benefits.
• Amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to require State agencies and the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA to treat farmers markets and other open-air retailers the same as brick-and-mortar, traditional retail food stores
• Encourage State agencies to partner and contract with nonprofit organizations to assist with outreach, administration, and farmer and market training
A one-page fact-sheet about the bill is attached and available on the FMC web site here.
Both of these bills take bold steps to advance farmers markets but they won’t become part of the Farm Bill without your support. You can help by:
1) Adding your organization as a supporter of both bills. To add your organizational support for the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, please enter your information into the form here. To add your organization as a sign-on supporter of the Expanding Access to Farmers Market Act, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. with your complete contact information.
2) Tell your Senators and Representatives that you support these important and forward-thinking pieces of legislation and invite them to join as a cosponsor. You can find out if they’ve already signed on here. Then, you can reach out in less than 5 minutes in a short phone call or an email by finding your Senators here and Representatives here.
Attached are two one-page summaries of these bills. Feel free to send them to your legislators as well as farmers market colleagues.
Legislative update courtesy of Farmers Market Coalition. The Farmers' Market Management Network of Ohio is a proud member of FMC.