After touring the Healthy Living Market in Wilton Mall, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced new legislation that would expand markets for farmers and increase the availability of nutritious locally-grown food for consumers. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would help New York farmers by addressing production, aggregation, marketing and distribution needs while helping consumers access and afford fresh, nutritious food.
"By investing in local and regional agriculture, we are investing in healthy economies and healthy communities," said Senator Gillibrand, the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly four decades. "This legislation would promote sustainable agriculture, expands access to credit and markets for Capital Region and New York farmers, and increases access to local, affordable fresh produce for our communities."
"Working with local farmers and producers is something Healthy Living is famous for," said Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, Owner and General Manger of Healthy Living Market. "We started almost 30 years ago buying a few cucumbers and tomatoes at a time from tiny farms with no outlets to sell to, and have grown to be one of the largest buyers and sellers of local products. We are so thrilled that Senator Gillibrand has made this bill a priority, because the more support and love we can give to local farmers and producers, the better."
"I appreciate the dedicated work and on-going support Senator Gillibrand demonstrates for local farms in the Capital Region," said Justine Denison of Denison Farm in Schaghticoke. "We, consumers and farmers, all benefit from programs and assistance that create multiple means to produce and make accessible healthy food for all. This legislation sets us on the path to do just that."
Aimed at helping more farmers sell their products directly to consumers, the legislation would create jobs by assisting farmers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. It would also ensure that consumers -- particularly low-income families and seniors -- have better access to nutritious, locally-grown food. Direct-to-consumer agriculture sales produce $1.2 billion in annual revenues.
Local and regional agriculture is a major economic driver in the farm economy. While in 1970 farmers markets were few and far between, there are now almost 8,000 farmers markets throughout the United States. There has been an increase in the number of farmers markets of more than 150 percent since 2000. On the heels of that expansion, we are witnessing the rapid growth of local food markets that have scaled up beyond direct marketing and a renewal of mid-tier regional food system enterprises. According to USDA, local food sales now account for $5 billion annually. Together these markets represent important new job growth and economic development opportunities.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will support job creation by improving federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems. This legislation will help farmers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. This legislation will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets. This legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.