Farm Bill Extension a Cold Shoulder to Farmers Markets

By: Stacy Miller       Posted On: January 3, 2013

On January 1st, Congress passed a nine-month farm bill extension attached to the larger ‘fiscal cliff’ compromise. Despite a variety of reforms and reauthorizations agreed to earlier this year by Senate and House Agriculture Committees, this extension continues to fund a full year of direct payments for commodities (at $5 billion), while failing to provide mandatory funding for a variety of smaller, more progressive programs, including the Farmers Market Promotion Program.

“This short-sighted band aid of a farm bill extension is a shocking disappointment for the nearly 8,000 existing farmers markets across the United States,” says Farmers Market Coalition Interim Executive Director Jennifer O’Brien. “Failure to include mandatory funding the Farmers Market Promotion Program for FY 2013 demonstrates disregard for the economic and health impacts offered by farmers markets–

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two things that many American communities sorely need.”

With no mandatory funding for the program until a full farm bill is passed by September 30, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will not be able to award competitive grants through the Farmers Market Promotion Program in 2013. Since 2006, the program received 2,687 proposals, and funded 575 grants in all fifty states. The Farmers Market Coalition implemented a survey of grantees in fall 2012 to assess the program’s impacts. Results are expected in spring 2013.

Crediting the hard work of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, which had previously approved legislative language for a five year farm bill that would have funded the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program at $20 million annually, FMC is committed to working with congressional leaders and allied organizations to ensure a comprehensive 2013 Farm Bill that includes support for important farmers market programs, and will alert members of new opportunities to get involved as the new congress takes office.

The Farmers Market Coalition is a 501(c)(3) member organization dedicated to strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities. Through its membership, the organization represents nearly 4,000 farmers markets and approximately 25,000 agricultural producers selling at them each year.