We are happy to announce the release of the new Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013! The bill, introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine, addresses a range of farm bill titles, from extension programs to processing and distribution as it works to aid farmers and consumers on the local and regional level. As you’ll recall, NYFC promoted the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) introduced in 2011 that ultimately did not make it into the final farm bill (not surprising, given that the last-minute temporary farm bill was thrown together last minute back in December).
A marker bill is basically a compilation of several related provisions to be eventually incorporated into a larger spending bill (in this case, the full 2013 farm bill being written this year). Instead of fighting for each provision individually, legislators will group them together to streamline the process of getting them through Congress. The other marker bill we’ve talked about in the past is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, which unfortunately shared the fate of the LFFJA last year.
So what does the LFFJA do?
The LFFJA is designed to address bottlenecks that hinder local and regional food markets. These bottlenecks appear in every stage of the food system, from production to processing to marketing. The endgoal of the act is to not only improve those local food systems but to then create more jobs and spur greater economic development. In total, the LFFJA will do all this while only representing one tenth of one percent of total farm bill spending.
A few examples of programs that the LFFJA will support are:
“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”
-Maine farmer Sarah Smith, of Grassland Organic Farm
Value-Added Producer Grants – The bill will focus on investing in rural development through restoring the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program’s $20 million funding level, while ensuring that the program focusing on local and regional food production and food enterprises.
Farmers Markets – The bill will direct mandatory funding to the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which supports the development of farmers markets and other local systems through grant programs and direct marketing.
School Meals – The bill will start pilot programs to give schools the freedom to choose their own food procurement, boosting their ability to source meals locally.
Organic Cost-Share – Another example is the Federal Organic Cost-Share program, which lost its funding last year. The bill will renew funding, allowing farmers to more easily attain organic certification and thus further their businesses.
The LFFJA received a huge amount of support last year (the bill had nearly 100 co-sponsors in the House and Senate and nearly 300 organizational supporters) and we fully expect it to be as popular this year. However, that doesn’t mean it will glide through without your support! In the near future we’ll be asking you to do some ground work to make sure this bill passes, so keep an ear to the ground! In the mean time, head to the NSAC LFFJA summary page for more info on the proposed bill.