Two Congress members during a special presentation on Capitol Hill Tuesday reintroduced identical bills in the House and Senate to renew focus on restoring rural jobs, family farms and local foods.
The "Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act of 2013," offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, addresses production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution barriers that limit growth in local and regional food markets.
Originally introduced in 2011 ahead of farm bill negotiations, the Act gained the support of nearly 100 legislative co-sponsors in the previous Congress. However, because a new five-year farm bill was not passed in 2012, and the 2008 Farm Bill was extended, some programs were discontinued.
The legislators' act authorizes funding for the discontinued programs, including the Market Promotion Program, National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Value-Added Producer Grants.
Brown and Pingree released the updated version of the Local Farms Act for inclusion in a potential 2013 Farm Bill.
"Overall, these are non-partisan issues. Helping family farms through modest support and commonsense policy changes are popular in every corner of the country. I am hopeful we can go even further this year," Pingree said in a statement.
The bill has also gained support of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which says it addresses agricultural infrastructure, marketing and information barriers.
"The bill … makes smart investments that expand economic opportunities for farmers, increase jobs, and improve healthy food access in rural and urban America," NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner said.
During the special presentation Tuesday, Maine organic farmer Sarah Smith joined Pingree and Brown to express her support.
"Passage of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will mean more jobs and income for farming communities nationwide and greater availability of high quality locally and regionally produced food for consumers," Smith said.
Specific proposals within the bill include:
Whole Farm Revenue Insurance for Diversified Operations
The bill would direct USDA's Risk Management Agency to develop a Whole Farm Diversified Risk Management insurance product that is available in all states and all counties. The product is relevant to all diversified operations, including, but not limited to, specialty crops and mixed grain-livestock or dairy operations, contract producers, and organic and conventional farms. The new insurance product would be offered at the same buy-up coverage levels as other policies, include a strong crop diversification bonus, and account for all the normal costs involved in moving the crop off the farm and into marketing channels.