On June 30th, 2021, Young Farmers member Tianna Kennedy testified in front of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research about supply chain recovery and resiliency for small producers. Tianna is a farmer in upstate New York who owns Star Route Farm and the 607 CSA. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 607 CSA pivoted to meet the needs of their community by establishing a delivery service for their consumers consisting of 45 local farms serving 40 different towns. The new program was successful in providing a diversified CSA to 800 residents in the Catskills and New York City and serves as a promising example of an innovative regional foodshed model. The program also met various challenges, such as the immense business risk inherent in scaling up so quickly, as well as the high costs of trucking and warehousing food and the inability to meet all the consumer demand.
During her testimony, Tianna asked Congress to fund dedicated Rural Development office staff, non-profits, and extension staff to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance to regional food businesses and organizations like hers so that the transition to scaling up is more easeful. She called for the expansion of USDA programs beyond FSA microloans for vertically integrated infrastructure, such as new e-commerce platforms and transportation services and equipment. Items like these should be included in programs like the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAGP), the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and the Regional Food Systems Partnerships (RFSP).
She urged for USDA to streamline its applications, extend deadlines, and eliminate match requirements to make USDA programs more accessible to beginning and small producers. She also suggested that the USDA prioritize the ranking of all Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) grant applications submitted by or intended to service new and beginning farmers, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) farmers, veterans, and small- and medium-sized farms. Finally, USDA should actively conduct outreach to and recruit BIPOC producers and organizations for grant review panels and USDA advisory committees to strive to ensure that the final makeup of committees and panels reflects the diversity of who works in agriculture, and USDA should commit to providing additional outreach, resources, and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged producers and underserved communities to increase equity in agriculture.
You can listen to Tianna’s testimony here.