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Proposed bill would create farm jobs, expand access to local food

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced her plan to introduce a bill later this week in Congress that includes provisions that would significantly change the nation’s food policy.  The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would expand opportunities for local and regional farmers and make it easier for consumers to have access to healthy foods.

“This is about healthy local food and a healthy local economy.  When consumers can buy affordable food grown locally, everyone wins,” said Pingree . “It creates jobs on local farms and bolsters economic growth in rural communities.”

Pingree’s bill is a package of reforms and new programs that will encourage production of local food­­–not only by helping localfarmers and ranchers become more profitable and productive, but also by helping consumers buy locally through improved distribution systems.

“We’ve seen explosive growth in sales of local food here in Maine and all across the country.  This bill breaks down barriers the federal government has put up for local food producers and really just makes it easier for people to do what they’ve already been doing,” said Pingree.

Recent reports found the number of farmers markets in the U. S. has grown 150% over the last decade, and supporting new farmers markets is expected to create thousands of new jobs.

Pingree’s reforms are intended to modify the Farm Bill currently up for renewal. It would modify nine of  sixteen sections of the farm bill.  Some of those changes include proposals that:

·     Provide funding to help farmers build the infrastructure—like slaughterhouses—to process and sell their food locally.

·     Require USDA to keep doing traditional seed research, not just on genetically modified seeds.

·     Create a new crop insurance program tailored to the needs of organic farmers and diversified farmers who grow a wide variety of crops and can’t easily access traditional crop insurance.

·     Break down barriers for schools and institutions to procure local food more easily. Provide schools with a local school credit to purchase local foods, as well as fix out-dated federal policies that inhibit schools from purchasing local food.

·     Make it easier for food stamp recipients to spend their money at farmers markets by giving the farmers access to technology necessary to accept electronic benefits—that money goes right back into the local economy.  The bill includes a pilot program to test smart phone technology to accept food stamp benefits at farmers market.

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