Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) announced Monday she will introduce a bill that would “significantly change the nation’s food policy” by supporting local and regional farmers.
The package of reforms and new programs, dubbed The Local Farm, Food, and Jobs Act, would encourage the production of local food by helping farmers and ranchers and by improving distribution systems, building on the success of farmers markets across the country.
“This is about healthy local food and a healthy local economy. When consumers can buy affordable food grown locally, everyone wins,” said Pingree, who owns an organic farm in North Haven, Maine. “It creates jobs on local farms and bolsters economic growth in rural communities.”
Pingree tied local food system growth to creating jobs all over the country.
“We’ve seen explosive growth in sales of local food here in Maine and all across the country. This bill breaks down barriers the federal government has put up for local food producers and really just makes it easier for people to do what they’ve already been doing,” the congresswoman said.
Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser voiced his support for the proposal.
“For too long, American farm policy has favored large, industrial producers over small farmers who want to raise livestock and grow food sustainably. This is a terrific bill for family farmers, the environment, and most of all, for consumers. It will bring fresh, healthy, local food to communities across the United States,” said Schlosser.
Pingree’s legislation is a package of reforms to the Farm Bill. Pingree hopes to add her provisions to any legislation that comes out of the supercommittee.
“The policies in my bill make some major reforms to farm and food policy and we will work to get them included in any Farm Bill that is put together over the next few weeks and included in a deficit reduction package,” she said.
According to Pingree’s office the bill modifies nine of the 16 titles of the farm bill, including:
• Provide funding to help farmers build the infrastructure — like slaughterhouses — to process and sell their food locally.
• Require USDA to keep doing traditional seed research, not just on genetically modified seeds.
• Create a new crop insurance program tailored to the needs of organic farmers and diversified farmers who grow a wide variety of crops and can’t easily access traditional crop insurance.
• Break down barriers for schools and institutions to procure local food more easily. Provide schools with a local school credit to purchase local foods, as well as fix out-dated federal policies that inhibit schools from purchasing local food.
• Make it easier for food stamp recipients to spend their money at farmers markets by giving the farmers access to technology necessary to accept electronic benefits–that money goes right back into the local economy. The bill includes a pilot program to test smart phone technology to accept food stamp benefits at farmers market.