Summer Advocacy Rundown 2022

By: Maranda Raskin, FMC Policy Intern       Posted On: September 26, 2022

It’s been a busy summer at the Farmers Market Coalition! Not only did we celebrate National Farmers Market Week and break all of the previous year’s records for overall engagement, but we’ve also been advocating all summer for our 2022 Policy Priorities. We started out by updating our policy priorities to reflect the feedback from our members, market managers, FMC staff, and our contacts at USDA and on Capitol Hill. Our Updated Policy Priorities guide all of the advocacy work we do and we encourage everyone to read them and join us in supporting farmers markets at the national policy level. 

This summer we developed engaging campaigns to advocate for our Farm Bill priorities as Congress begins to draft marker bills. Marker bills are bills introduced by Congress that are not intended to pass as stand-alone pieces of legislation, but are used to build support for a policy or issue with the hope that it will be adopted as part of a larger bill, such as the massive Farm Bill. We advocated to improve Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) Grants by reaching out to every recipient of an FMPP grant within the last year and encouraging them to write a letter to their members of Congress explaining the importance of FMPP for their organization and what can be done to improve the program. We received confirmation that many organizations reached out to their elected officials and we know these personal letters can make a big difference. We will continue to push to make FMPP grants simpler, more accessible, and easier to understand as well as provide greater support to applicants and potential applicants and increase funding to BIPOC-led organizations and regions of the country that have received fewer grants historically. 

FMC also contributed to a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture that provided him with policy suggestions for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Along with 15 other anti-hunger and food system organizations, we suggested an equitable distribution model for SFMNP, a flexible voucher model and delivery method, and increased funds for administrative costs to support hard to reach communities. We will be following the progress of the Farmers Market and Food Bank Revitalization Act of 2022 which includes SFMNP provisions and we encourage its passage in the House and the Senate. 

In early August, FMC Executive Director Ben Feldman traveled to Durham, NC for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) summer meeting, the first in-person meeting of the Coalition since the pandemic. This meeting was a key opportunity for planning and strategizing for the upcoming farm bill among members and aligning the group around priorities. Many of FMC’s priorities were discussed and included in the broader coalition’s priorities, including the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (including FMPP Grants), the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

During National Farmers Market Week we focussed on sharing our policy priorities with a wide audience and amplifying the voices of everyone who these policy goals affect. We hosted a Policy Webinar in a roundtable style with Ben Feldman, FMC Executive Director and leader of our policy efforts, Robbi Mixon, Executive Director of the Alaska Food Policy Council, and Nathaniel Dullea from Office of Rep Marcy Kaptur! Each guest brought their unique perspectives on the importance of the Farmers Market Promotion Program, crucial changes being made to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) and the benefits of farmers markets and therefore farmers market policy advocacy for communities nationwide. Overall it was a successful event that shined a light on the work done at FMC, on Capitol Hill, and in grassroots organizations to ensure that everyone has access to farmers markets and local food. During National Farmers Market Week we also asked markets to share their biggest challenges. We wanted to hear these challenges to spread awareness about all the hard work that goes into running a thriving market and to engage everyone to mobilize for their markets. Farmers markets don’t just happen and policy can be a huge tool to address challenges!

Following the request for markets to share their challenges, we put out a call to action for folks to share their Farm Bill feedback with the ​​House Agriculture Committee. The short Farm Bill Review Form can be found HERE and is still open for feedback! We believe you are the expert about what your market or organization needs, and it is this information that we want to amplify and relay to your members of Congress. Feel free to borrow language from our policy priorities and keep in mind when filling out the survey: FMPP grants fall under Title X (Horticulture), while GusNIP and SFMNP fall under Title IV (Nutrition).

We also geared up for Farm Bill season by hosting a Listening and Learning Session for Black market operators and food system leaders on September 7th. This session helped us gain a better understanding about the challenges and triumphs that Black market operators and food system leaders have encountered and how federal farmers market policies play a role. We wanted to create a space to share ideas with one another and work together to create equitable farmers market policy. As we continue our advocacy we will take into consideration the feedback from the Listening and Learning session for the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill and beyond.

FMC Staff (left to right: Dar Wolnik, Rachael Ward and Hannah Fuller) outside of Senator Jeff Merkley’s office in Washington, DC after speaking to a staffer about farmers market priorities.

Most recently FMC embarked on a staff-wide advocacy trip to Washington D.C. Each staff member and many board members met with their members of Congress to discuss the importance of farmers markets, especially in the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill. We talked with our representatives about our policy priorities, provided them with crucial information and statistics about the benefits of farmers markets, and developed direct connections between FMC and members of Congress. Overall it was a successful trip and we are excited to continue advocating for farmers markets directly with our representatives. We will update our members about what we learned and how we champion farmers markets at the policy level in D.C and year-round.