WASHINGTON, April 9, 2013 – Two lawmakers re-introduced legislation today that seeks to expand opportunities for local and regional farms as well as make it easier for consumers to have access to healthy foods.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act in both chambers.
“Consumers want to know where their food is coming from and they want healthy, local options when they shop for their families,” Pingree said. “But national farm policy hasn’t kept up with the public and it’s about time we changed that.”
Some of the bill’s proposals include:
- Providing funding to help farmers build the infrastructure—like community kitchens—to process and sell their food locally.
- Require USDA to keep doing traditional seed research, not just on genetically modified seeds.
- Create a new crop insurance program tailored to the needs of diversified and organic farmers who grow a wide variety of crops and cannot easily access traditional crop insurance.
- Break down barriers for schools to purchase local food more easily, and provide schools with a local school credit to purchase local foods.
- Make it easier for food stamp recipients to spend their money at farmers markets by giving the farmers access to technology necessary to accept electronic benefits—that money goes right back into the local economy. The bill includes a pilot program to test smart phone technology to accept food stamp benefits at farmers market.
Pingree said that about 340 farmers’ markets existed in the United States in 1970, and now there are nearly 8,000 markets.
Brown said there is an “increasing interest in farmers selling their foods as close as possible.”
Both Pingree and Brown noted that the provisions were included in last year’s Senate-passed farm bill. In addition, Brown noted that he, like other senators, are expecting the bill to be on the Senate floor early May.
“We have 67 votes in the Senate,” Brown said. “I hope to have something very soon.”
Lending his support, Tom Colicchio, the host of Bravo's Top Chef appeared at the press conference.
“Demand for locally grown food is growing in every corner of the country: thousands of farmers and farmers markets are serving millions of consumers and more than 2,000 schools have farm to school programs,” Colicchio said. “But, you wouldn’t know a food revolution was sweeping our country if you read the farm bill.”
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