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Letter to Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Re: Measures to Strengthen Family Farmers

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Re: Measures to Strengthen Family Farmers

Senator Clinton Pushes Measures to Strengthen Family Farmers

Adding Key Provisions to Farm Bill Would Be A Win for Both Local Farmers and Consumers

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with a coalition of her colleagues, urged the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to include important provisions in the final Farm Bill that would support healthy, affordable foods and strengthen local and regional food systems to the benefit of farmers and consumers. In a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members, the lawmakers stressed the importance of including key measures in the upcoming Farm Bill to facilitate direct purchase of produce, dairy, and other farm products by consumers, often providing the farmer with a greater share of the food dollar by cutting out the middleman.

"The reauthorization of the farm bill offers a unique chance to pass provisions that in addition to offering farmers new opportunities to promote home-grown produce and goods, also benefits the consumer by increasing access to healthy, affordable foods," said Senator Clinton. "I urge my colleagues in Congress to work together to ensure these provisions remain a priority in the final Farm Bill."

Strengthening these provisions in the Farm Bill would provide funding for legislation that was proposed by Senator Clinton, which would help deliver fresh food from farms to underserved communities. The Food Outreach and Opportunity Development (FOOD) for a Healthy America Act would increase the supply and availability of locally produced foods by providing innovative financing for new market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill included programs that support local and community food systems to the benefit of farmers and consumers across this country. Some of the key provisions requested in the letter include:

* Allowing institutions participating in child nutrition programs to consider geographic preferences when available and practical.
* Providing $5 million Senate level for grants to help implement the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) at farmers markets.
* Maintaining a current level of $40 million in mandatory annual aid for Value-Added Producer Grants to help a wide variety of farmers and producers improve their method of production.
* Providing $10 million in annual, mandatory funding for Community Food Project Grants which as included in the Senate version of the bill.
* Funding at the highest possible level programs such as the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program and Farmland Protection programs.
* Including the Senate-passed language requesting a study on the impact of local food systems on commerce.

A copy of the letter is attached -

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Saxby Chambliss
Ranking Member
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Congressman Colin Peterson
Chairman
House Committee On Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Ranking Member
House Committee On Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Conferees:

We write to encourage you to include important provisions in the final Farm Bill that support healthy, affordable foods and strengthen local and regional food systems to the benefit of farmers and consumers. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill included such provisions, and we look forward to a final bill that retains the best of each.

One important provision was included in both the House and Senate bills- the clarification of procurement policy to allow schools and other institutions participating in child nutrition programs to consider geographic preferences, facilitating the purchase of local foods when available and practical. This seemingly small provision could provide a boost for famers, as well as enhance the understanding among children about nutrition, farming, and their communities.

There are a number of other programs that support local and community food systems to the benefit of farmers and consumers across this country. These programs facilitate direct purchase of produce, dairy, and other farm products by consumers, often providing the farmer with a greater share of price by cutting out the middleman. One of the best ways to support local food systems is to support farmers markets. To that end, we hope you will provide the $5 million Senate level for grants to help implement the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) at farmers markets. This important program, which simply helps set up the EBT machines and related minor costs, allows parents on the Food Stamp and Women Infant Children (WIC) programs to access local, fresh produce and food. Removing this barrier provides these families with the same access to fresh nutritious food as any other family.

The House and Senate each provided increases in two other important programs- Value Added Producer Grants and Community Food Project Grants. Value-Added Producer Grants help a wide variety of farmers and producers improve their method of production. We encourage you to maintain current level of $40 million mandatory annual laid provided in the 2002 Farm Bill, and to include the provisions making certain applications easier. This valuable program should not be cut. For Community Food Project Grants, we hope you will use the Senate level of $10 million annual funding. While the House bill authorizes appropriations of $30 million annually, it does not provide any mandatory funds. The Senate level, while lower, is preferable for this reason.

Some of the other programs we encourage you to fund at the highest possible level are the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program. In addition, a number of programs indirectly benefit local food projects and the farmers who participate, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program and Farmland Protection programs.

Further, we hope that the final bill will include the Senate-passed language requesting a study on the impact of local food systems on commerce. It is our understanding that supporting local food systems has an impact felt past the farmer and the consumer or individual transactions. A study that shows just how far-reaching the impact of a strong local food system is would benefit all of us moving forward.

We recognize that many difficult choices lie ahead as you work toward the final version of this important legislation, and hope that you will keep these programs in mind.

Sincerely,


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