Farm Bill Update: The Local FARMS Act & Its Farmers Market Provisions

 

Congress’ top two agenda items before year’s end—passing a 2018 budget and overhauling the nation’s tax code—continue to spill over into the Farm Bill.  In order to advance tax reform efforts, the House and Senate budget committees both passed 2018 budget bills last week. The House bill contained instructions to the Agriculture Committee to make significant spending cuts to programs including SNAP, while the Senate bill proposed no cuts to agriculture programs.

The two houses now must to come together to craft a final budget in order to proceed with tax reform under the so-called “budget reconciliation process,” which will allow Congress to pass legislation with only 50 votes in the Senate and avoid the prospect of a filibuster. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) believes that the final budget will pass without cuts to agriculture programs. The current budget debates serves as a prelude for a farm bill discussion where the total cost of the bill and its various provisions will be front and center.

In more direct farm bill news, last week, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Sharrod Brown (D-OH) introduced marker bills in their respective chambers of Congress that would bolster farmers markets and ensure more low-income Americans have access to healthy food. H.R. 3941, The Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act, and its companion S. 1947, are both supported by Farmers Market Coalition.

The FARMS Act contains two important provisions specifically for farmers markets. First, it proposes consolidating and streamlining the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program with other local food programs (e.g. Value Added Producers Grant) in order to create a comprehensive local food program with increased funding. Second, the Act proposes expanding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to include low-income veterans and increase overall funding for the program. This proposal mirrors the Urban Agriculture Production Act, which Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) introduced earlier this fall.

For these reasons alone, Farmers Market Coalition supports both bills, which also contain important provisions relating to food safety, Organics, and a program to pilot produce prescriptions. More information on the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act can be found on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website.