Cross-posted from Fair Food Network
By Kate Fitzgerald
In the early hours of July 12, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R. 6083 AKA the Farm Bill) on a bipartisan vote of 35-11. The bill cuts total spending by $35 billion over ten years, with $16 billion of the cut coming from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. One of the few bright spots in the bill is a provision for an incentive program inviting SNAP participants to purchase more locally-grown fruits and vegetables.
Advocates for sustainable local food systems have an interest in a Farm Bill passing soon because many of the USDA programs that support this work will expire on September 30, the end of both the 2012 fiscal year and the current farm legislation. USDA has made great strides in the last four years: farmers’ markets are growing; new markets that accept SNAP and WIC benefits are being established; food hubs are making it easier for farmers to sell to schools, hospitals and regional grocery chains; hoop houses are being constructed to extend farmers’ seasons in rural communities and on urban city blocks; and beginning farmers are getting the support they need to be successful. (USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food COMPASS is an excellent tool to learn about funding opportunities at USDA and connect with organizations and farmers doing interesting work around the country.) A new Farm Bill can provide the statutory support for USDA to continue these programs.
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