Pingree Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort to Strengthen Local Food Systems
The Local Farms and Food Act would help more people access nutritious and locally grown food
Washington, April 19, 2023
Tags: Food and Agriculture
Today, U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) introduced the legislation to strengthen support for our local and regional food systems – helping more people access nutritious, locally grown food. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate with Sens. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.). The bipartisan, bicameral Local Farms and Food Act would simplify applications for certain Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program projects, increase funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), reauthorize the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, reduce barriers to the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), and build upon the GusNIP Produce Prescription Program, among other provisions.
“More and more consumers want to know where their food comes from, who grew it, and how it was produced. Despite this growing demand in Maine and across the country, it’s estimated that food in the United States travels roughly 1,500 miles from farm to plate. We can and must do more to reduce that distance and build out local food systems,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “My bipartisan Local Farms and Food Act is a win all around – it provides resources for local farmers to bring their products to market, it helps ensure local communities have access to healthy foods, and it reduces our environmental footprint by encouraging more direct to consumer food purchasing.”
“Central Washington is one of the most agriculturally rich and diverse regions in the United States. To continue our support for local and regional food systems, we must ensure our farmers have the necessary resources to bring their products to market so people are able to enjoy the delicious food grown right in their own communities,” said Congressman Newhouse. “I am proud to introduce the Local Farms and Food Act that will strengthen support for our growers and help people gain access to locally grown food.”
“We support local economies best when we produce more in Ohio – whether it’s cars or produce or beef or flowers. Ohioans shouldn’t have to buy apples from Washington when they could get them from Geauga County, or vegetables from Mexico when they could get them from a farm in Tiffin,” said Senator Brown.“This will build on our success in past Farm Bills, and make improvements to ensure Ohio farmers have the tools and support they need to sell their products in their own communities.”
“Agriculture is the backbone of Minnesota’s diverse economy, and all Minnesotans should have access to healthy, local food,” said Senator Smith. “This bill would support local farmers and producers while making it easier for them to sell their products to local markets. This bill is a win for local farmers, consumers and the environment – I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it passed.”
“Vermont’s farmers work hard to produce world class products that are at the core of our economy and culture. But many Vermont families can’t access locally grown food, and small and mid-sized farms often struggle to bring their products to market,” said Senator Welch. “The Local Farms and Food Act will help bridge the gap between farms and families, helping our farmers grow their businesses and expanding access to nutritious, local food. I’m proud to join my colleagues to support this bipartisan, bicameral, common-sense measure.”
“This bill invests in rural communities by increasing access to nutritious, locally grown food, and cuts red tape to make it easier for farmers to bring their products to market,” said Senator Fetterman. “It’s a slam dunk, and let’s get it done.”
The Local Farms and Food Act would:
“Maine Farmland Trust is excited to see the introduction of The Local Farms and Food Act. Maine farmers need resources and support as they grow and diversify their businesses and compete in new markets. This bill expands funding and improves accessibility for important federal programs that support small and mid-sized farms with value-added production, equipment and infrastructure investments, accessing new markets, and local and regional supply chain development. Investing in a robust and resilient local food system is critical for growing Maine’s agricultural economy and ensuring food security for our state. We are grateful to Representative Pingree for her leadership on this important issue,” said Shelley Megquier, Policy and Research Director for Maine Farmland Trust.
"Federal funds from GusNIP are crucial in growing the Maine Harvest Bucks nutrition incentive program in Maine. The 50% match requirement has continued to burden our program. It hinders our ability to grow and serve low-resourced communities in Maine. With a decreased match requirement to 25%, we'll be able to efficiently bring Maine Harvest Bucks to more rural, underserved communities and not place any undue burden on farmers and market organizers,” said Jimmy Cesario-DeBiasi, Executive Director, Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets. “Further, in the last decade, Farmers Market Promotion Program grants have boosted sales and growth of Maine's farmers' market community. With Turnkey Grants, we see an opportunity to reduce barriers to USDA support for our organization and for Maine's farmers' market community. Turnkey grants will reduce the administrative barriers to applying for federal support. This will lead to more innovation and growth in Maine's local food economy, as entrepreneurs and community organizers get the support they need to bring new market opportunities to life.”
The bill is supported by American Farmland Trust, Agricultural Viability Alliance, American Sustainable Business Network, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), Farm Action Fund, Farmers Market Coalition, Fair Food Network, Kiss the Ground, Maine Farmland Trust, Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Regenerate America, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wholesome Wave.