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By Representative Kaptur

I have been a strong proponent of agricultural policies that benefit Ohio's farmers and ranchers and strengthen Ohio's long-standing tradition as one of the top agricultural producing states in America.

Farmers in Ohio's 9th Congressional District contribute significantly to our economy. Each year, farmers sell over $277 million worth of agricultural products, which is an average of $115, 158 per farm. Northern Ohio's nursery, greenhouse and floriculture producers are among the top agricultural producers in the state.

However, of great concern is the rising amount of foreign agricultural products flowing into the United States. While agriculture is one of the few industries where we enjoy a trade surplus, recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that in the first 6 months of 2011, agricultural imports into the country jumped 18 percent from the same period in 2010.

In addition, I am concerned about Ohio's food supply & marketing systems. Despite being one of the nation's top agricultural producing states, a study conducted by the University of Toledo and Ohio Department of Agriculture reports that of the $29 billion of food purchased by Ohio consumers each year, $26 billion comes from outside the state. Such a large amount of money flowing to other states ultimately hurts our economy.

These startling statistics are why we need to strengthen our local food supply and increase food production in nontraditional areas. Moreover, we must strongly support efforts to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to help combat poor nutrition and obesity.

Our City in a Garden

The "Our City in a Garden" white paper was published in 2010 by Toledo GROWs, Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and the University of Toledo. The paper presents a model of a community agriculture system to produce, prepare, process, preserve, and distribute healthy and wholesome food products within the community.

By taking back control of food production, processing, and distribution, food will become an engine for creating economic benefits within the community. Most importantly, it can create jobs locally.

You can read the full report by clicking here.

Community Agriculture Development and Jobs Act

In an effort to help implement the vision within "Our City in a Garden," I introduced the Community Agriculture Development and Jobs Act.

From my perspective, dramatic economic, demographic, and land use changes in the United States have opened pockets of land for agriculture in areas not traditionally associated with agricultural production.

The goal of the Community Agriculture Jobs Act is to spur the development and expansion of community agriculture initiatives in these nontraditional areas while also creating jobs in the agricultural sector here in the United States. Based on a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, my legislation has the potential to create up to 67,500 jobs in community agriculture.

More specifically, the legislation:

* Creates the Community Agriculture Outreach Program to help fund certain types of community agriculture projects

* Expands the Farmers' Market Promotion Program

* Expands the Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program

* Ereates the Community Agriculture Research Initiative to research the best community agriculture production practices

* Designates a point person in USDA tasked with ensuring that the department promotes community agricultural initiatives

* Works to improve USDA reporting efficiency

It is my hope that the Community Agriculture Development and Jobs Act will be considered and incorporated into the next farm bill.

You can read the bill text here. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here and a section-by-section breakdown can be found here.

In addition, you can learn more about how the Community Agriculture Development and Jobs Act would specifically help the nation's farmers' markets, reduce agricultural imports, work to end food deserts and support small farmers by viewing these fact sheets: Farmers Market Fact Sheet and Imports, Food Deserts, and Small Farmers.

Agricultural Production Guide

In an effort to help individuals and organizations understand what potential federal programmatic support may be available to undertake an agricultural production initiative, our office created a guidebook that summarizes some of the major federal programs.

The guide summarizes many of the agricultural assistance programs administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its sub-agencies. In addition, brief information is provided about the programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Contact information is also provided for organizations that can offer guidance to prospective entrepreneurs as they consider starting or expanding an agricultural enterprise.

You can view the Agricultural Production Guide by clicking here.

Legislation I Have Introduced and Cosponsored

H.R. 3225, Community Agriculture Development and Jobs Act

H.R. 307, Seed Availability and Competition Act

H.R. 2631, Livestock Marketing Fairness Act

H.R. 3233, Eliminate Auto Test (EAT) Act

H.R. 3286, Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act

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