Do Farmers Markets Matter to Your Senator?
The House of Representatives just passed a 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that slashes $2 billion from the President’s proposed budget for the Food & Nutrition Service, including nearly $5 million from the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and tells USDA to drop the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (KYF2). The House’s budget also failed to include $4 million dollars as requested by Obama and USDA to help more farmers markets acquire wireless EBT technology. To make matters worse, the House budget also cuts $1 billion from mandatory farm bill conservation funding. I don’t know about you, but we at FMC can think of plenty of other ways to balance the budget, and they are not on the backs of the farmers that feed real families real food and preserve rural ecosystems.
As you may know, KYF2 is not a budget line item but a vehicle in which to coordinate departments within the USDA to achieve local food goals. This program has been at the heart of the USDA’s work to better serve direct-marketing farmers and localized food systems. A provision denying any funding for the Know your Farmer, Know your Food initiative is a direct attack on new farm and market opportunities, rural job growth, and public health.
In 2010, the WIC FMNP provided fresh fruits and vegetables to 2.15 million low-income women and their young children, providing nearly $16 million in revenue directly to farmers. Since it was established in 1992, this program has become a unique success story in America’s agricultural policy, which otherwise disproportionately favors large-scale commodity production. To slash it’s funding by more than 20% (from $19.6 in 2011 to $15 million) — well, that hurts.
Find your senators’ emails and phone numbers here, and give them the simple message:
1) Tell them your community depends on the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), and that the WIC Fruit & Vegetable Voucher, which farmers are only authorized to redeem in fewer than 10 states, is no substitution. Ask them to stand with us, the nation’s more than 6,100 farmers markets, to restore full funding for WIC FMNP. To tell them how many farmers and markets in your state depend on WIC FMNP, click here to find your state’s stats.
2) Remind them that as Senators Udall, Leahy, Levin, Menendez, Bingaman, Gillibrand, Wyden, Reed, Laudenberg, Begich, and Sanders have already urged in a recent letter, farmers markets also need wireless EBT terminals in order to connect more farmers (and healthy local food) with America’s 44 million (and counting) SNAP customers.
3) Tell them the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative actually increases efficiencies by streamlining programs, facilitating communication between agencies, and making federal grant programs more accessible to the community-level food projects which are really making a difference in creating sustainable rural economies.
4) Ask them to preserve mandatory funding for important conservation programs. To learn more about what’s being done to defend these programs, and what you can do to help, please visit our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.