National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Announces Introduction of Local Foods Bill

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine and 35 original co-sponsors introduced the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 1773, H.R. 3286), a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill. The legislation helps farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs to access growing local and regional food markets. The bill also assists consumers by improving access to healthy food. The measure provides secure farm bill funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, create rural jobs, and invest in the local food and agriculture economy.
“We applaud Senator Brown and Congresswoman Pingree for introducing this legislation,” said Helen Dombalis, a Policy Associate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act revises and expands existing federal farm programs to ensure that they effectively foster local and regional food system development. The bill invests in communities—when consumers are connected to and invested in where their food comes from and agricultural producers meet this demand, local economies reap the benefits.”

The bill includes provisions that cut across ten titles of the Farm Bill, including proposals that address conservation, credit, nutrition, rural development, research and extension, food safety, livestock, and crop insurance. Some of the specific proposals within the bill include:

Local Marketing Promotion Program

The legislation will establish $30 million a year in mandatory farm bill direct funding for what is now the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). The newly refashioned Local Marketing Promotion Program will do everything FMPP does, but also will provide grants to scale up local and regional food enterprises, including processing, distribution, aggregation, storage, and marketing.

School Meals

The bill will improve institutional access to local and regional foods through a series of provisions regarding school meal procurement. For example, through a “local food credit program,” originally championed by Representative Pingree in her Eat Local Foods Act introduced earlier this year, School Food Authorities could opt to use up to 15 percent of their school lunch commodity dollars for making purchases of foods in their own communities, from their own farmers and ranchers, instead of through USDA’s nationalized commodity food program.

Rural Development

Funding for Rural Development programs has declined significantly in recent agriculture appropriation bills, and these programs are at risk during the farm bill reauthorization. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act boosts rural investment by increasing the Business & Industry Loan funding set-aside for local and regionally produced agriculture products and food enterprises from five to ten percent. The legislation will also provide authority for specific types of local and regional food system funding under Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG), Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG), and Community Facility Grants and Loans.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Within the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, the bill proposes an annual allocation for local and regional specialty crop market development. Although the program is already in place to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which include fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts, there is no explicit focus on specialty crops marketed in their local and regional areas. This legislation would change that.

For more information on the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, see the entire press release
Posted on: December 2nd, 2011