U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, held a hearing today on creating new market opportunities for family farmers in Michigan and across the country. Stabenow said that helping expand opportunities for consumers, schools and businesses to purchase local foods helps strengthen local economies.
"We're seeing more 'Michigan-Made' signs in grocery stores all across the state, and it's a trend I want to see continue," said Senator Stabenow. "In Michigan we know that if every household spent just $10 on locally-grown food, we could put $40 million back into the economy. When we buy local, we support local jobs."
Dan Carmody, President of Eastern Market in Detroit, testified at today's hearing.
"Last summer economic guru Michael Porter investigated food systems in Detroit and Boston and found the food sector has an unparalleled potential to deliver significant jobs across a full spectrum of skill sets," Carmody said in his testimony. "It is estimated that if Detroit could access 20% of its food from regional sources, nearly 5,000 jobs, $25 million in new state and local taxes, and $125 million of new household income would be generated. Local food system development can address structural unemployment in both urban and rural places with few job opportunities."
Today's hearing also discussed the issues of "food deserts," areas lacking grocery stores and the availability of healthy foods. Senator Stabenow discussed efforts to help provide incentives to grocery stores to locate in areas that need them.
"This isn't always an easy task: it can be a difficult struggle for a grocer to locate in a food desert community. Resources like Healthy Food Financing can help bridge the gap, and have helped new grocers get established in places like Philadelphia and Detroit. These stores are making profits, meeting an important need in local communities, and using food hubs to connect with local farmers."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified at today's hearing, as did additional witnesses.
An archived webcast of the hearing can be viewed on the Committee website at http://ag.senate.gov.