To the Editor:
(April 2013) Recently, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The sponsors worked diligently to write commonsense legislation that addresses the infrastructure challenges and informational barriers that family farmers and ranchers face in their efforts to develop local and regional food systems.
By overcoming these barriers and making smart investments that will expand business and marketing opportunities for family farmers and ranchers as well as increase consumer access to local, healthy foods, this legislation will help create jobs and economic growth on America’s country roads and small town main streets.
The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act is comprehensive, touching seven major Farm Bill sections – from credit and crop insurance to research, nutrition and rural development. Many provisions were included in either or both the Senate-passed and House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bills in 2012. Moreover, the bill would invest just over $100 million annually, including funding for several vital sustainable agriculture programs that were left high and dry when the Farm Bill extension passed as part of the fiscal cliff legislation in the waning hours of the last Congress.
That investment is small in overall farm bill terms – roughly one-10th of 1 percent of total farm bill spending – but big in helping a growing sector of the food system flourish while creating jobs and lasting economic benefits to family farmers, ranchers, consumers and America’s rural cities and small towns.
John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs