POUGHKEEPSIE – In response to the recent explosion of interest in organic and locally-grown foods, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, announced the introduction of the bipartisan Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act to support local farmers and consumers.
The bill would overhaul and consolidate valuable USDA programs to improve efficiency and assistance for farmers and farm organizations as well as help farmers meet food safety and certification requirements, enhance distribution, and expand farm-to-school programs.
“This bill is the real deal—it’ll do wonders for our rural farm economies throughout the Hudson Valley while providing more opportunities to feed New York—it’s a win for everyone,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. “Talk to any farmer and they’ll tell you how hard it is to get their food directly to customers—this will smooth some of those roadblocks, reduce the headaches for farmers, and make it easier for folks to get their hands on clean, locally grown food.”
HR 3941, the Local FARMS Act would:
- Consolidate key programs into the Agricultural Market Development Program, which would be a one-stop shop for farmers and other supply chain participants to expand local food market opportunities;
- Address veterans’ hunger by expanding eligibility for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to all veterans;
- Provide resources to farmers for food safety certification and equipment upgrade expenses;
- Promote local food procurement and education in schools;
- Ensure USDA grants and loans can be used to support local livestock, dairy and poultry processing infrastructure;
- Help domestic organic farmers meet the growing demand for organic food by continuing the organic cost-share program; and
- Connect food and medicine through a pilot program that would provide produce prescriptions to low-income individuals.
Farmers selling local food through direct marketing channels have seen an incredible growth in economic opportunities. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 160,000 U.S. farmers sold $8.7 billion worth of local food to directly to consumers, retailers, institutions and local distributors in 2015—$3 billion directly to consumers, $2.4 billion to retailers, and $3.4 billion to institutions and businesses that market locally branded products. Of those producers, 81 percent sold all their food within 100 miles of the farm.
In rural communities, boosting local and regional food markets can have a significant impact on local economies and help keep rural families on the farm. Direct marketing channels also serve as an important entry point for new farmers who are breaking into the industry for the first time. Investing in local food markets would offer consumers more choices while helping farms diversify their incomes to become more sustainable.
The bill is being introduced by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) in the House of Representatives. A companion version is being introduced in the Senate by Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The bill is supported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Farmers Union, American Farmland Trust, National Young Farmers Coalition, Food Corps, Wholesome Wave, Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Columbia University, Self-Help Credit Union and Affiliates, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association.