Farm bill update from FMC

Farmers Market Coalition Applauds Bipartisan Leadership on Senate Farm Bill

(Charlottesville, VA) On Thursday, June 21st , the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (ARFJA) with a 64-35 vote, after considering several dozen proposed amendments to the bill. The Farmers Market Coalition commends the bipartisan commitment to healthy debate and effective action on long-needed steps to reform and improve the nation’s food policy.

Farmers Market Coalition members were instrumental in reaching out to Senators leading up to the last two days of debate, urging for continuation and expansion of the flagship Farmers Market Promotion Program into the new Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program.

While the Act includes some cuts to conservation programs, the Senate bill does adopt some important amendments, including by Senator Brown (D-OH) on rural development and beginning farmers, by Senator Merkley (D-OR) on crop insurance for organic farmers, by Senator Grassley (R-IA) on commodity payment limit reform, and Senator Wyden (D-OR) on farm to school pilot programs.

As passed, the bill includes the following provisions essential for expanding retail opportunities for small and mid-sized farms while making fresh, nutritious local foods available to communities of all income-levels. Several of the provisions included in the Senate’s bill address the Farmers Market Coalition 2012 Policy Priorities:

● Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program – Increases funding to $20 million a year and expands the scope of the highly popular Farmers Market Promotion Program to include additional outlets for processing, marketing, and distributing local foods.
● Specialty Crop Block Grants – Increases funding to $70 million per year for five years from the current level of $55 million per year with provisions to allow for collaborative projects among multiple states.
● Innovations in SNAP Technology – Authorizes pilots of mobile applications and online ordering for authorized SNAP retailers and includes provisions to permit SNAP redemption by community supported agriculture (CSAs).
● Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC) – Maintains mandatory funding at $20 million annually to provide assistance to low-income seniors and ensure access to the fresh, local food at farmers markets.
● Hunger-Free Community Incentive Grants – A total of $100 million to create a new grant for incentive programs to increase fruit and vegetable purchases by SNAP customers at farmers markets and other healthy food retailers .
● Community Food Projects – Doubles funding from the current $5 million per year to $10 million per year to support the development of comprehensive projects to fight food insecurity and increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their food needs.

Sources in the House of Representatives indicate a strong interest in moving forward on a House Farm Bill process after the July 4th recess, with a committee mark-up process scheduled for July 11th. The Farmers Market Coalition encourages House members to follow the Senate’s lead by supporting these innovative, cost-effective, and far-reaching provisions.

“With the current Farm Bill expiring on September 30th, we hope that the House will follow the Senate’s lead on cost-saving reforms that continue to invest in a more resilient, equitable, and diversified food system, ” said Stacy Miller, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “We urge the House to retain the Senate’s language on these critical programs, in recognition the economic, social and nutritional impacts farmers markets have in more than 7,000 communities nationwide, for at least 50,000 innovative agricultural producers.”

About Farmers Market CoalitionThe Farmers Market Coalition is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization who seeks to strengthen farmers markets’ capacity to serve farmers, consumers, and communities by providing the rapidly growing movement with information and representation at state and federal levels. FMC is a hub for cross-pollination of best practices and public information, representing more than 3,500 farmers markets through its membership. FMC mobilizes peer leadership and grow farmers market capacity to link sustainable farmers with neighbors seeking healthier relationships to food and their community. For more information, tools, and resources please visit http://www.farmersmarketcoalition.org.

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