According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine announced that next week they will introduce the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act – a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 farm bill.
The goal of the bill is to advance the development of local and regional farm and food systems. This bill is a package of reforms and new programs that will encourage production of local food – not only by helping local farmers and ranchers become more profitable and productive, but also by helping consumers buy locally through improved distribution systems. This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. It will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food. Of utmost importance, the bill will provide secure farm bill funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities and rural jobs, and invest in the local agriculture economy.
Over the last few months, Brown and Pingree (who, by the way, spent several years in the mid 1970’s running a small farm with her husband selling produce locally) created a local and regional food working group to come up with the proposals in the legislation. Some of the participants included The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Environmental Working Group, the Organic Trade Association, Wholesome Wave, the Union Of Concerned Scientists, the New England Farmers Union, National Organic Coalition, the National Farm to School Network, and many others.
The bill modifies nine of the sixteen titles of the farm bill, including proposals that address conservation, credit, nutrition, rural development, research and Extension, food safety, livestock, and crop insurance. One provision that specifically impacts organic farming will be to renew funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program to assist producers entering into organic production. The 2012 Farm Bill certainly has its share of flaws, but this piece of legislation will be a welcomed addition to the bill.