Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine announced that this week they will introduce the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill.
This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. It will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food. Of utmost importance, the bill will provide secure farm bill funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities and rural jobs, and invest in the local agriculture economy.
"We applaud Senator Brown and Congresswoman Pingree for introducing this legislation, which is important to farmers and consumers alike," said Helen Dombalis, a Policy Associate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act revises and expands federal farm programs already in place to ensure that they work well for producers wanting to add value to their products and to sell in their own communities and regional markets, helping to meet rapidly expanding consumer demand for local food."
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and its 40 member groups were closely involved in the development of the bill. Among the many other groups endorsing the measure are the National Farmers Union, National Organic Coalition, Community Food Security Coalition, American Farmland Trust, and the National Farm to School Network.
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. For instance, the bill would:
Authorize USDA's Risk Management Agency to develop a whole farm revenue insurance product for diversified operations, including specialty crops and mixed grain/livestock or dairy operations;
Strengthen direct producer-to-consumer and larger scale retail and institutional marketing channels, through the Local Marketing Promotion Program, a renewal and expansion of the current Farmers' Market Promotion Program;
Expand USDA's rural Business and Industry loan funding set-aside for local and regional food enterprises and infrastructure;
Create an annual allocation for local and regional specialty crop market development within the Specialty Crop Block Grant program;
Renew funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program to assist producers entering into organic production; and
Fund farmer food safety training through the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance program, authorized last year as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.