House Agriculture Committee passes Farm Bill with Pingree’s local food provisions
Jul 12, 2012 | 2308 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
EXCLUSIVELY ONLINE: ST. JOHN VALLEY - Late last night, the House Agriculture Committee passed major legislation setting the nation’s farm policy for the next five years, and it contained a range of provisions written by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree designed to support and expand local farms and food.

Last year Pingree introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, which included 29 separate provisions, according to a press release from her office. Twenty of those provisions were included in either the bill that passed last night or the Senate version that passed earlier this year.

“Consumers all over the country are demanding more access to local food - they know it’s good for their families and good for the local economy," said Pingree in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately farm policy is out of step with that trend but these local food provisions will start to move us in the right direction."

Some of the local food proposals included in the bill:

- Farm-to-school programs that will allow schools to spend their federal commodity funding to buy food from local farmers. The Portland Public School System, for example, has been involved in a pilot program to buy local food for school lunches.

- Increasing access to local food for SNAP (food stamp) beneficiaries, including a program to provide electronic benefit card readers to farmers markets at no cost; a double-voucher program to increase the buying power of beneficiaries at farmers markets; and a provision to make it easier for small farms to accept SNAP benefits for use with Consumer Supported Agriculture projects.

- Diversified crop insurance, which allows farmers who grow a range of products to purchase insurance for their crops, in the same way that large-scale commodity farmers now do.

- Organic crop insurance, which treats organic farmers more equitably, the statement read, and will give organic farmers a fair price for their food.

- Value-added producer grants, which allow farmers to make investments that will increase the value of their products. For example, a farmer could use a grant to install a creamery in order to make cheese.

Pingree says she’s hopeful the full House will vote on the Farm Bill later this month.