As consumer demand for local food soars, 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 billions of local food to consumers, retailers, institutions and local distributors in 2015.
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. Whether it’s selling produce at a farmers’ markets or to a restaurant, 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 diversifies farm income sources, builds community between urban and rural populations, and promotes consumer choice.
Introduced by Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), HR 3941, the Local Food And Regional Market Supply Act (Local FARMS Act) builds on the success of local and regional food economies by helping farmers tap into growing markets and helping consumers access healthy food. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
To build on the success of local and regional food markets, the Local FARMS Act would:
- Create a more efficient program called the Agricultural Market Development Program that is housed at the Agricultural Marketing Service and consolidates Value Added Producer Grants, Local Food Promotion Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, regional food chain coordination, and partnership agreements for regional planning; streamline the application process; and task Cooperative Extension and USDA field offices with providing outreach and technical assistance.
- Ensure adequate funding of the Food Safety Outreach Program during these critical years of Food Safety Modernization Act implementation and move the program to the Agricultural Marketing Service, which regularly works with producer groups and handles other food safety programs such as the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Program and Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
- Create a new program called the Food Safety Cost-share Program, which would be overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service and would support farmers with costs associated with food safety certification and equipment to improve food safety.
- Reauthorize the Organic Cost-share Program and update statutory language to reflect the program’s move to Farm Service Agency.
- Provide USDA with clear authority to use Rural Development grants and loans for meat and poultry processing infrastructure, with a priority for projects that increase the availability of or geographic distribution of USDA and state inspected facilities.
- Create a new pilot program called the Harvesting Health Program that supports fruit and vegetable prescription projects in areas of persistent poverty and collects health impact data.
- Help to address veterans' hunger by expanding eligibility for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to low-income military veterans and ensure adequate funding for the program.
- Expand geographic preference for school food to allow schools to use locally grown, locally raised, or locally caught as a product specification.
- Ensure Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program funds are reserved for national or regional projects involving multiple states and add food waste reduction to the purpose statement.
National Statements of Support
“Encouraging and making it easier for Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables is critical to improving their health. This is especially true when it comes to vulnerable and underserved populations. Expanding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program so that low-income seniors and military veterans have these resources to eat healthy would help achieve this goal. Prescriptions for healthy foods from a health care provider are another way to improve access and health. Launching a pilot that would help us study fruit and vegetable prescription projects is essential for understanding their impact on the health of patients.” Sue Nelson, Vice President for Federal Advocacy, American Heart Association
“The Local FARMS Act streamlines and enhances programs that are critical to the ongoing development of the farmers market industry. The Act helps to ensure, small scale american farmers have access to viable markets for the fruits of their labor.” Jen Cheek, Executive Director of Farmers Market Coalition
"Every day, FoodCorps connects kids to healthy food in schools, in Maine and across the nation. We are raising the next generation of healthy eaters, and this bill would propel our work by boosting the flow of fruits and vegetables into local markets and making it easier for schools to bring local and regional food into cafeterias and classrooms.” --Cecily Upton, Co-Founder and VP of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, FoodCorps
"The Tisch Food Center is very happy to support the Local FARMS Act. This bill is exciting in that it takes a comprehensive approach to helping people eat well – through production, access, affordability, and nutrition education. Taken together the elements of this bill will support local farmers and producers; make good food more accessible and affordable for communities; and engage consumers young and old in growing and eating healthy, local food.” Dr. Pamela Koch, EdD, RD, Executive Director and Research Associate Professor of Nutrition Education at the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Teachers College Columbia University
"America's family farmers are hard-working entrepreneurs who act as the backbone for many of our local and regional economies," said Wes King, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "The Local FARMS Act prioritizes these farmers and food producing communities in the upcoming farm bill by helping them connect to new economic opportunities and by providing critical upgrades to infrastructure and USDA support services. We applaud Representative Pingree for her leadership on this bipartisan legislation and thank her for continuing to serve as a champion for rural America."
"We’re thrilled by Rep. Pingree’s ongoing leadership in food-and-farm policy and particularly pleased that the Local Farms Act includes support for Produce Prescription Programs. We at Wholesome Wave know from our work in over a dozen states that when people can afford fruits and vegetables, they buy them, and the benefits ripple out across communities. Farmers and retailers sell more produce, make more money, and hire more help. And diets change overnight - which is our only hope in reducing the $1T+ burden that treating diet-related disease puts on the American economy. This bill is a win-win-win," said Michel Nischan, CEO, Wholesome Wave.
“This bill is both smart and necessary. Local and regional food systems play a critical role in keeping farms in business and helping the next generation enter the market, and this bill is an important step towards those goals.” -John Piotti, President of American Farmland Trust
“Currently 15.6 million U.S. households lack adequate access to healthy food. At the same time, many small and midsize farmers struggle to secure a steady demand for their produce. The Local FARMS Act offers solutions to these problems by providing financial incentives and policy support for local food systems that can create jobs, establish reliable revenue streams for farmers and increase access to healthy and affordable food, especially for low-income Americans. Research shows that thriving local food systems can close the nutrition and health gaps along socioeconomic and racial lines while encouraging spending that keeps local dollars invested in local businesses. We look forward to working with Representative Pingree, Senator Brown and others to support our farmers, rural economies and healthy families.”--Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Maine Statements of Support
“As a mission driven investor with a particular focus on building and enhancing the viability of local farm and food businesses, CEI fully supports the Local FARMS Act. CEI, whose mission is to help create quality jobs, environmentally sustainable businesses and shared prosperity for all rural Maine people, understands the power of federal programs, like those included in the Local FARMS Act to reinforce and support our goals,” said Gray Harris, Senior Program Director, Natural Resource Sectors, Coastal Enterprises Inc. “Good, actionable, federal policy is critical in supporting the growth of the local food economy and the Local FARMS Act is a step in the right direction in creating efficiencies and needed services to enable our farm and food producers to grow and thrive.”
“Representative Pingree's Local FARMS Act is a necessary and important step forward in protecting the ability of farms to continue producing the superb food that feeds people throughout our nation," said Julie Ann Smith, Executive Director of the Maine Farm Bureau. “Keeping farms in business is crucial for the well-being of all who live in the United States, as well as our local and national economies. Pingree's bill will provide the support that producers need to continue operating and providing the quality food that feeds our nation.”
“Maine Farmland Trust is excited to endorse The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (The Local FARMS Act). This Act provides the financial support, infrastructure development, and technical assistance that farmers in Maine need to grow the local and regional food economies. At the same time, it increases access to fresh, healthy, and locally-grown food for low-income communities in Maine. Simply put, the tools in this bill will strengthen our local economies and nourish our communities. We are grateful for the sponsors of this bill, and especially Representative Chellie Pingree, for working to include these important changes in the next Farm Bill,” said Amanda Beal, President and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust.
“Seafood is a critical part of our region’s food system and economy,” said Kyle Foley, Sustainable Seafood Program Manager at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “In a marketplace where the U.S. imports 91% of the seafood that we eat, programs like the Local Food Promotion Program create much needed opportunities to build markets for local fishermen and access to local seafood for consumers.”
“Maine's farmers' markets are made up primarily of small, diversified farms, and are scattered across towns from Portland to Madawaska, Eastport to Norway,” said Leigh Hallett, Executive Director of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets. “Pingree’s Local and Regional Market Supply Act will benefit all of these markets, both urban and rural, by expanding resources for farmers and access to healthy, local foods for consumers. Improving the infrastructure serving farms will benefit consumers and the economy as a whole.
“Congresswoman Pingree’s Local FARMS Act provides much needed support to family farmers across Maine and around the country,” said Ted Quaday, Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “MOFGA is wholeheartedly supportive of the bill.”
"Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative supports Maine food producers and consumers by working to include more locally-produced, healthful food into ALL Maine diets. We focus particularly on rural areas and New England hospitals, schools, and agritourism events. However, barriers such as pricing, product diversification, coordination, and marketing continue to challenge the small and medium producers and harvesters, preventing them from effectively competing for market share,” says Dave Seddon, CEO, and Ron Adams, COO, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative. “Although we can produce an adequate supply of healthy food for much of New England right here in Maine, the number of those who cannot access the local foods remains low. Furthermore, the increasing food recalls due to food safety highlight the need for more affordable and cost effective training and for facilities that process food in state. Thus, we applaud Representative Pingree and other legislators and are encouraged by the Local FARMS Act Bill, which will coordinate programs and policies that support social, environmental, economic, diet and health aspects of Maine and New England’s complex local food systems."
Issues: Food and Agriculture