Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Local Farms, Food, And Jobs Act" Introduced In House And Senate

Today the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act was introduced in the Senate and the House, with bill numbers S. 1773 and H.R. 3286 respectively. Bill author Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced it in the House, while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced it in the Senate. The legislation reforms the Farm Bill, which is normally passed by Congress every five years, against a backdrop of worries that Congressional leaders want to write a new Farm Bill over the next few weeks and insert it into the deficit reduction package being considered by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee.”). The bill modifies nine of the sixteen titles of the Farm Bill, and includes provisions that are specifically focused on small, organic, family farms, and protecting farmers who do not use genetically engineered seeds.

The legislation is designed to retool local and regional food systems and infrastructure, and "expand farming businesses, create rural jobs, and invest in local and regional food economies." It makes it easier for smaller farmers to obtain credit, and prioritizes consumer access to "healthy, fresh food" with support for technology and direct sales. There are six co-sponsors for the bill in the Senate, all Dems, and 28 in the House. Click here for a summary [PDF]

“Making it easier for farmers to sell food locally and easier for consumers to buy it translates directly into a more healthy economy and more jobs in our communities,” Pingree said in a news release.

Provisions include:

*Create a new crop insurance program tailored to the needs of organic farmers and diversified farmers who grow a wide variety of crops and can’t easily access traditional crop insurance.

*Require USDA to keep doing traditional seed research, not just on genetically modified seeds.

*Eliminate existing penalties for production of fruits and vegetables on land previously dedicated to row-crops.

*Invest in critical infrastructure that would enable farmers and food-businesses to aggregate, store and distribute their products.

*Enable SNAP recipients to purchase locally grown food by helping farmers and direct sales markets acquire the technology necessary to accept electronic benefits

*Increase food safety training and technical assistance resources for small and mid-sized farming operations as well as to small slaughterhouses.

*Reduce barriers to institutional purchasing, better linking farms with schools, hospitals, and other institutions.

Senate cosponsors of the bill include Sens. Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

House cosponsors include US Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), David Cicilline (RI-1), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-7), Janice Hahn (CA-36), Brian Higgins (NY-27), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Ron Kind (WI-3), Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-10), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-3), Ed Markey (MA-7), Jim McGovern (MA-3), Mike Michaud (ME-20), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Jim Moran (VA-8), Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at large), John W. Olver (MA-1), Laura Richardson (CA-37), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP) Northern Mariana Islands, Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28), Peter Welch (VT- at large), and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6).

A video of Rep. Chellie speaking in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, on Oct. 24, discussing the legislation:

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