The Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs is rallying support for the new Local FARMS Act. That stands for Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act.
Anna Johnson, policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, says the bill is designed to help producers sell locally.
“This bill does three things to help local foods, and the first is it helps farmers reach new markets, and then it increases access to healthy foods for low-income populations, and then the third thing is that it strengthens the infrastructure for local foods to reach market,” Johnson tells Nebraska Radio Network.
It also proposes giving school districts more leeway in buying from local sources.
Johnson says it increases access to healthy foods for low-income people by expanding an existing program.
“USDA has a program called the Seniors Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, which helps seniors access fresh, healthy food at farmer’s markets,” she says. “One of the proposals here is to expand that to also be available to low-income veterans. That will not only help out the veterans, it would also expand the market for producers.”
The bill also would provide more loan and grant opportunities through the Farm Service Agency and Rural Development.
She says those could help increase meat and dairy processing opportunities for small producers.
While the bill is being considered now in the U.S. House, Johnson says parts of the bill could be included in the 2018 Farm Bill that’s being crafted.
“Farmers who have been selling into local markets have been expanding,” she points out. “This would help address a couple of those bottlenecks or limitations to existing supply chains that they’re running into that are keeping them from expanding their businesses and keeping additional farmers from entering into these channels.”
Text of the bill is HERE.
AUDIO: Mike Loizzo reports [:36]