|Pingree introduces Local Farms, Food, Jobs Act in House|
|Tuesday, November 01, 2011|
Sen. Sherrod Brown introduces Pingree's legislation in Senate
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree officially introduced a bill in the House today that will significantly change the nation's food policy. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown also introduced Pingree's bill in the Senate today. Dozens of farmers and food advocates from around the country will be coming to Washington this week to urge their members of Congress to support the bill. Pingree's bill has 29 co-sponsors when it was introduced in the House today.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would expand opportunities for local and regional farmers and make it easier for consumers to have access to healthy foods. Find more information on the bill here.
"Making it easier for farmers to sell food locally and easier for consumers to buy it translates directly into a more healthy economy and more jobs in our communities," Pingree said. "Consumers want to be able to buy fresh, healthy food that doesn't have to travel half way around the world to get to them, we just need to create a farm policy in this country that makes it easier for them to do that."
The legislation Pingree and Brown are introducing is a package of reforms and new programs that will encourage production of local food--not only by helping local farmers and ranchers become more profitable and productive, but also by helping consumers buy locally through improved distribution systems.
Pingree and Brown's legislation reforms the Farm Bill, which is normally passed by Congress every five years. This year, however, Congressional leaders have indicated they want to write a new FarmBill over the next few weeks and insert it into the deficit reduction package being considered by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the "Super Committee.") Pingree said she's hopeful that provisions in the bill are included in any legislation that comes out of the Joint Committee's work.
"The policies in my bill make some major reforms to farm and food policy and we will work to get them included in any Farm Bill that is put together over the next few weeks and included in a deficit reduction package," she said.
The bill modifies nine of the sixteen titles of the farm bill. Some of those changes include proposals that:
· Provide funding to help farmers build the infrastructure—like slaughterhouses—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 organic farmers and diversified farmers who grow a wide variety of crops and can't easily access traditional crop insurance.
· Break down barriers for schools and institutions to procure local food more easily. Provide schools with a local school credit to purchase local foods, as well as fix out-dated federal policies that inhibit schools from purchasing local food.
· 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.