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.

  • Well, if you are 42nd in agricultural production like Maine is, it’s understandable you’d try to have your inefficiency subsidized.

  • Steve

    Ahem…. seems like the “efficiency” comment has things backwards….
    Local-organic-sustainable-alternative agriculture continues to be the fastest and (only) growing segment of the food system — and while eaters keep voting for it with their food dollars — the lion’s share of our taxpayer dollars are going to subsidize and support industrial factory farms, biotech and petrochemical ag — all of which are infamous for passing on their toxicities via pollution and externalizing their costs to our environment and health.
    And the whole myth of industrial ag “efficiency” has long been debunked — fact is “Small farms produce more agricultural output per unit area than large farms. Moreover, larger, less diverse farms require far more mechanical and chemical inputs. These ever increasing inputs are devastating to the environment and make these farms far less efficient than smaller, more sustainable farms.” For this perspective (again from Maine) see:

  • Steve

    ….somehow this perspective: ….got scrubbed…

  • Mike Surma

    The concept is good but let’s make sure that locally sold foods meet modern food safety standards. Also please don’t add the sale of unpasteurized milk in this bill….it is an unsafe product!

  • Russell Lawrence

    Unpasteurized milk is quite safe, read up on the subject. As long as the cow is healthy (which was much more of an issue many years ago than now) its milk will also be healthy and safe. Unpasteurized milk and cheeses should be left up to the consumer to choose or not.

  • Mary

    Russell: Like most of this site’s regular readers, I have read up on the subject. Healthy cows can shed E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and other potentially lethal pathogens in their feces and, if a dairy is not careful, feces can get into the milk. If milk does become contaminated, pasteurization helps make it safe. If the milk isn’t contaminated, it obviously doesn’t need to pasteurized. But how do you know? Even in Russian Roulette the bullet chamber is empty, most of the time.
    It is up to the individual consumer to decide if the risk of unpasteurized milk is an acceptable personal risk. In this country, there is no law against consuming raw milk. The various laws in the U.S. only regulate the sale of raw milk and are a response to concerns about public safety and the societal costs of illness and outbreaks. There may be other, more effective ways to address public health concerns — national standards for raw milk has been one suggestion — but in the meantime there is no place in the debate for inaccurate statements like yours.

  • Eo

    When all the information for your article comes directly from the Congresswoman’s own press release, don’t you think you should specify that was your source? It is difficult to assess the reliability of the information presented when it is suggested that the information was gathered by an impartial third-party observer.

  • Thedude

    I eat local food and drink unpasteurized milk every day, as do many other people here in Maine. To all you nay-sayers who think it is unsafe; what is so safe about drinking milk that comes from a cow that has been raised in prison camp conditions (aka industrial farm)? Try local, unpasteurized milk just once (if it is available in your area) and i guarantee you will sing a different song.