By: Alexandra Gladu
This September, Congress will negotiate and renew the Farm Bill, a large-scale piece of legislation that regulates food production and distribution practices in the United States. Because it mandates such programs as agricultural subsidies and food stamps, the bill is always a topic of heated debate and high-magnitude impact when it is revised and renewed every five years. This time around, though, a proposed addition to the bill is sparking much-needed conversation about local and regional agriculture.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (LFFJA) aims to promote local and regional agriculture across the country by funding programs to aid local farmers and educate the public about the importance of supporting those local farmers. An earlier version of the Act failed to pass in 2011, but groups like the National Young Farmers Coalition are hopeful it will make its way into the Farm Bill next month.
Among the LFFJA’s provisions is mandated funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which provides grants and direct marketing activities for local farmers markets around the country. The Act also proposes a program that would let schools choose their own sources of food, which would encourage public schools to seek out and support local farms in order to stock their cafeterias. Ultimately, these programs – and more – would require less than one-sixth of one percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget, yet they would make a big difference for local farmers and the ‘buy local’ movement as a whole.
The debate surrounding LFFJA comes just in time for National Farmer’s Market Week, which runs August 4-10. Like any other small business, farmer’s markets bring diversity and revenue to our local communities – and they throw in some tasty, fresh veggies, too! The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would encourage economic growth and sustainability in our nation’s local and regional farms, which in turn would spark economic growth and sustainability elsewhere. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, every two jobs created at a local farmer’s market supports an additional job in another sector of the local economy. So while the Farm Bill debate lives on this month, let’s celebrate National Farmer’s Market Week and support local farmers across the country by buying local produce and sharing the idea with your friends!
Alex is a rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is double-majoring in Public Relations and Spanish. Since becoming an intern with Independent We Stand, she has fully adopted the ‘buy local’ lifestyle. Her favorite indie business is Sugarland, a bakery in Chapel Hill, N.C, where she has been known to go a little cupcake crazy. She hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in nonprofit or political communication.