The bill will improve institutional access to local and regional foods through a series of provisions regarding school meal procurement. For example, the bill would create USDA pilot projects through which school systems could experiment with local food procurement and would allow small school districts to make their own food purchases on an ongoing basis if doing so creates administrative savings.
The bill boosts rural investment by restoring funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant program to $20 million a year and improving its delivery, with an emphasis on regional market and supply chains. The bill also strengthens the Business & Industry Loan funding set-aside for local and regionally produced agriculture products and food enterprises, and provides authority for local and regional food system funding under Rural Business Opportunity Grants, Rural Business Enterprise Grants, and Community Facility Grants and Loans.
Farmers Markets and Local Food
The legislation will establish $20 million a year in mandatory farm bill direct funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The expanded program will support direct farmer-to-consumer marketing but also will provide grants to scale up local and regional food enterprises, including processing, distribution, aggregation, storage, and marketing. Fifty percent of funding will go to direct marketing, with the remaining 50% to local and regional food system development beyond direct marketing, including institutional and retail value chains and markets.
The bill also increases funding for the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program and provides funding for incentives through the SNAP program to encourage low-income consumers to purchase healthy local food directly from local farmers.