FMC’s Market Manager Fly-In to D.C.: A Productive Exchange

      Posted On: September 28, 2023

Reporting by FMC Policy Intern, Sarah Hale.

Last week, for the culmination of this year’s chapter of our Farmer Fly-In Project, the Farmers Market Coalition had an intense two-day fly-in to Capitol Hill. Here’s a recap of our engaging and rewarding interactions with legislators and their staff.

September 13, 2023

We began the day with an energizing constituent coffee with Sen. Joni Ernst (IA). Bob Shepard, a farmer and market manager from Iowa, and I had the opportunity to converse directly with Sen. Ernst about the invaluable role of farmers markets, especially in smaller towns like Washington, IA. In addition, Ernst’s Agricultural Legislative Correspondent, Trenton Hoekstra, and Shepard were able to discuss critical bills such as the Local Farms and Food Act (S.1205/H.R.2723) and the Farmers Market and Food Bank Revitalization Act (S.2659/H.R. 2659).

Later in the day, I met with Will Couture from Sen. Richard Durbin’s (IL) office, who demonstrated a familiarity with the Local Farms & Food Act. Couture took notes on the Farmers Market and Food Bank Revitalization Act, as well as the Benefits from Processing Nutrition Programs Act (H.R. 4943 IH). Our discussions also encompassed our plea to lower match requirements, particularly concerning Turn-Key Grants.

A standout meeting was with Staff Member, David Bean, of Sen. Larry Bucshon’s (IN) office, attended by farmers Denise and John Jamerson from Princeton, IN. The duo did an excellent job articulating the challenges posed by the current 25% match requirement. Bean acknowledged the validity of their concerns. Emphasis was laid on the connection between farmers markets and community health – a key priority for Sen. Bucshon. We also delved into the technical hurdles faced by market managers.

September 14, 2023

The day started with an inclusive meeting with the Republican House Agricultural Staff. Though Ag. Committee Member, Jennifer Tiller, couldn’t attend, all participants from our coalition contributed, offering insights about their individual markets. The recurring themes were the three priority Bills of FMC and the crucial association between overall health and farmers markets.

Shepard and I also had a short yet productive encounter with Eli Harberts of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (IA) office. Harberts diligently took notes, focusing on our three pivotal bills and indicated a genuine interest in our cause.

The highlight of the trip was the Congressional Briefing. Over 20 congressional staffers attended, demonstrating a deep interest in understanding our needs. Our market managers effectively used their speaking slots, clearly communicating our objectives and the overarching importance of farmers markets. The exchange was dynamic, with staffers posing insightful questions.

In summation, the Farmer Fly-In was both productive and promising. Since our time in D.C., four Members of Congress have shown support for Enabling Farmers to Benefit from Processing Nutrition Benefits (HR 4943). Furthermore, Rep. Mike Lawler has signed on as a co-sponsor as of last week.