September 29, 2016
Americans’ interest in knowing more about where, by whom, and how their food is produced has been steadily building over the last decade. As the local food movement has grown, so too has interest in urban agriculture. Urban agriculture gives city dwellers a chance to purchase foods from farmers not just in their state, but sometimes right in their very own neighborhoods. It is also a prime opportunity to educate urbanites about the realities of farming, an economic opportunity generator, and a way to use healthy food to connect rural and urban communities.
Recognizing the budding potential of the urban agricultural movement, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced S. 3420, the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 on Wednesday, September 28.
“Urban agriculture is steadily growing in cities and towns across Michigan and across our country, creating new economic opportunities and safer, healthier environments,” said Senator Stabenow. “The Urban Agriculture Act will continue this momentum by helping urban farmers get started or expand their business, so they can sell more products and supply more healthy food for their neighbors.”
Senator Stabenow announced the legislation on a press call on September 26. Joining the Senator in announcing the bill was: Tom Colicchio, Food Policy Action co-founder and “Top Chef” head judge; National Young Farmers Coalition Executive Director Lindsey Shute; Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss; National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.
Viewed as starting point for discussions of how urban agriculture might be represented in the 2018 Farm Bill, the legislation seeks to address the unique needs of urban farmers while also building deeper connections between urban and rural communities.
The bill is anchored by the creation of a new Office of Urban Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which would coordinate urban agriculture policies and activities across the Department. In addition, the bill would:
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition looks forward to continuing to work with Senator Stabenow and other Members of Congress on ways we can further support sustainable agriculture in both urban and rural communities, particularly as discussions around the 2018 Farm Bill begin.