Buy local, eat local?
Despite the fact that agriculture and food is Ohio’s largest industry, too many Ohio consumers struggle to access fresh, affordable food and too many Ohio farmers need help selling their products locally.
Time and time again, I’ve heard the same message from farmers across the state: connecting Ohio farmers with Ohio consumers just makes sense. Yet, during my most recent “Grown-in-Ohio” tour, I heard from many people about the challenges of connecting farmers who are looking to expand markets for their products with families eager to buy fresh, locally-grown food.
With one in seven Ohio jobs connected to agriculture and food services, it’s obvious just how vital farming is to our state. As Ohio’s first senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than four decades, I’m committed to listening to and working for our state’s farmers and producers.
That’s why I have re?introduced the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, which seeks to connect farmers and families, promote good food and good health -- all while creating American jobs and strengthening our economy.
First, this bill would help small and mid-sized farmers and create stronger ties with local customers. This is good for farmers and consumers. 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. It can also mean that food is cheaper for local consumers who do not have to pay to have their food shipped from across the nation or around the world.
Next, the bill would improve consumer knowledge and access to fresh, healthy food. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would provide incentives for seniors and low-income families who rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to have access to locally grown fruit and vegetables instead of less nutritious process food. In addition, it would improve technology, allowing farmers to accept payment via EBT cards. The bill would also remove barriers so schools can more easily purchase local foods.
Finally, the bill would also invest in local economies by improving crop insurance products for small and diversified family farms. These farms would be provided with cost-assistance during the three year transition to an organic farm. Farms would also receive investments in infrastructure that would improve a farmer’s ability to aggregate, store, and distribute products. Additionally, small meat processing facilities would receive assistance for technical advances that would help improve businesses and strengthen the local economies.
Simply put, this bill helps America’s farmers sell their products – including Ohio-grown apples, sweet corn, leafy greens, dairy, meat, and more – directly to America’s families so people are healthier and the local economy is stronger.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act is plain common sense. By increasing access to fresh, local foods, we can expand markets for Ohio’s agricultural producers while improving health, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy.