Farmers markets get a mixed bag in House Draft Farm Bill

      Posted On: July 8, 2012

On June 21st, the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (ARFJA), otherwise known as the Farm Bill.  You can read the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) statement applauding the Senate for its bipartisan leadership in supporting farmers markets and local food systems here.

On July 5th, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas released his “mark” (draft) of the Farm Bill, or the ‘‘Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2012.” This bill includes $35 billion in cuts ($16 billion of which come out of SNAP funding).

What follows is a run-down of the House Bill’s treatment of FMC’s 2012 priorities:

Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP): As in the Senate version, the program is renamed the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, with annual mandatory funding of $20 million (and authorization for an additional $10 million in discretionary funding) ($20 million mandatory and $20 discretionary in the Senate bill).  Funds to administer the program are capped at 3% (10% in the Senate bill). FMC is concerned that this would jeopardize the proper outreach, oversight, and evaluation of the grant program while at the same time expanding its area of responsibility. The House version does not include the Senate bill’s priorities for under-served communities, small and medium-sized farms, and capacity building.

Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG): Funded at $70 million/year (like the Senate version).

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

  • Provides no funding for a new incentive program for SNAP recipients to shop at farmers markets (this was funded at $20 million annually in the Senate bill).
  • Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to exempt farmers markets from being required to cover 100% of the costs for EBT equipment and implementation (same as Senate bill).
  • Authorizes an EBT pilot program for developing technology to accept SNAP benefits using mobile (smartphone) technology (same as Senate bill).

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program: Eliminates “Seniors” from the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, expanding its scope to low-income families who are nutritionally at-risk while adding no additional funding and keeping the program at $20.6 million per year.  While the Farmers Market Coalition supports expanding the scope of FMNP beyond seniors, this is only possible with expanded funding.

The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to conduct a mark-up of the FARRM Act beginning July 11th.  FMC will be communicating with its members leading up to the mark-up process about potential amendments and suggested recommendations that address areas of concern to farmers markets.  In addition, FMC and its allies will be working with members in conference committee to resolve concerns over administrative caps on FMC’s priority programs.