February 23, 2018
National CSA Day is a great day to get a jumpstart on healthy eating for the year, and it’s also a great day to reflect on how public policy shapes our food system and to learn more about what we can do to make a positive impact. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” program, and CSAs serve as a marketing system through which local farmers can connect directly with consumers in their area and make a mutual agreement for food production and purchase through the growing season.
Traditionally, National CSA Day is a reminder to check out the local producers offering CSAs near you and get signed up while there are still spots available. Here at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), we also think this a great time to dig into the relationship between local food marketing opportunities (like CSAs) and the upcoming federal farm bill.
Federal policy has a huge impact on what is produced in this country, how it is produced, and who is able to access and/or purchase it. As part of the local food system, CSA farmers and subscribers have an important role to play in the upcoming farm bill debate. Many programs crucial to the viability and long term success of CSAs and local food economies will be up for debate as part of the upcoming farm bill process – both their funding levels and the essential ways in which they function.
Key local food and nutrition programs that will be part of the farm bill debate include: Value Added Producer Grants, Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Farm to School grant program, and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
As part of the farm bill process, Congress Members will introduce “marker bills” (meant to “mark” a place for legislative language to be included in the final farm bill) to promote their farm bill priorities. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Sean Maloney (D-NY) have introduced a bill that would provide much-needed financial and policy support to local farmers and food systems: The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act of 2017 (the “Local FARMS Act”).
The Local FARMS Act calls on Congress to help communities prosper by making farm to fork investments in the 2018 Farm Bill. Specific proposals in the bill that will be of interest to CSA farmers and subscribers, in addition to farmers’ market vendors and shoppers, include:
For more information about the history of CSAs, types of CSAs, and examples of how CSA programs have utilized USDA programs, check out our 2017 CSA Day blog.