Brown Introduces Bill to Expand Markets for Farmers and Increase Access to Local Foods

Legislation Would Boost Ohio’s Rural Economy, Improve Consumer Access to Healthy, Fresh Foods

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced legislation today to support family farms, expand farming businesses, create rural jobs, and invest in local and regional food economies. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act is a comprehensive package of reforms that would help Ohio farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, marketing and distribution needs.  The bill would also prioritize consumer access to healthy, fresh food with support for technology and direct sales.

“Linking Ohio producers with Ohio consumers is common sense. By increasing access to fresh, local foods, we can expand markets for Ohio’s agricultural producers while creating jobs and strengthening our economy,” Brown said.

“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.”

Right now, for each dollar that consumers spend on food, less than $0.16 goes back to the farmer. Supporting opportunities for farmers to sell their products directly to consumers or through shorter local supply chains means that more of a consumers’ dollar stays on the farm, where it is invested in local jobs and supplies and helps the local economy.

A recent study shows that if northeast Ohio’s residents and businesses spent 25 percent of their food dollars on local farms and businesses, 27,500 new jobs could be created while increasing economic output by $4.2 billion and generating $126 million in local and state taxes. 

The Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act includes provisions that would:

  • Improve crop insurance products available to small and diversified family farms.
  • Eliminate existing penalties for production of fruits and vegetables on land previously dedicated to row-crops.
  • Invest in critical infrastructure that would enable farmers and food-businesses to aggregate, store and distribute their products.
  • Increase food safety training and technical assistance resources for small and mid-sized farming operations as well as to small slaughterhouses.
  • Reduce barriers to institutional purchasing, better linking Ohio farms with Ohio schools, hospitals, and other institutions.
  • Enable SNAP recipients to purchase fresh, Ohio-grown food by helping farmers and direct sales markets acquire the technology necessary to accept electronic benefits.

A summary of the bill can be found here.

Senate cosponsors of the bill include Sens. Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), and Jon Tester (D-MT). House cosponsors include U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), David Cicilline (RI-1), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-7), Janice Hahn (CA-36), Brian Higgins (NY-27), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Ron Kind (WI-3), Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-10), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-3), Ed Markey (MA-7), Jim McGovern (MA-3), Mike Michaud (ME-20), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Jim Moran (VA-8), Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at large), John W. Olver (MA-1), Laura Richardson (CA-37), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP) Northern Mariana Islands, Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28), Peter Welch (VT- at large), and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6).

 

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