This past week, a movement in Washington promoted locally grown food and food stamps in order to get on the new farm bill being voted on. Two Oregon Lawmakers are hoping that the new bill is passed and includes the provision for food stamp recipients. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) created the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, which was a new bill that addressed the production, marketing, processing and distribution needs of farmers and ranchers who are targeting local and regional markets. Most of the legislation aims directly at farmers’ markets, which is considered to be one of the best places to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
And food stamp recipients should be able to buy here too. That’s the thinking of the lawmakers as they address some other issues with the bill as well. In the language of the bill, there is a provision for federal farm credit programs in addition to another large provision that would allow federal food stamp recipients to use debit cards at farmers’ markets. In the House, there are 68 cosponsors, two of which are Oregon Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio and Ron Wyden, a Democrat in the Senate that is sponsoring a similar bill.
DeFazio made a statement that suggested he was tired of seeing large conglomerates get all the business from federally funded programs, and that farmers in local markets should be able to participate.
“For far too long, the farm bill has subsidized large agribusinesses and paid corporate farmers not to grow crops at the expense of small, local farmers who produce sustainable and healthy crops for consumers,” said DeFazio in a statement.
The representative also said that the legislation would create additional reform for the federal crop insurance program and help small farmers, as well as farmers’ markets, connect directly with consumers.
With more than 7,000 farmers’ markets nationally, the trend has definitely grown in local communities to rely on these markets as a source for produce. In fact, there has been a 150 percent increase since 2000 in the number of farmers’ markets across the U.S. Direct-to-customer sales total $1.2 billion annually, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
While there isn’t too much interest on the Republican side, there has been some agreeable mentions and GOP lawmakers have expressed some interest in different parts of the bill. To give small farmers more help, both bills will enable more marketing and distribution, related to agriculture programs that already exist.