NSAC's Blog

Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Bill Can Help Grow More Sustainable Cities

September 29, 2016

Bruce Monroe Community Garden

Bruce Monroe Community Garden

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:

  • Expand USDA authority to provide Rural Cooperative Development Grants to cooperative development centers in urban areas to help urban farmers who want to form and operate an agriculture cooperative get products to market.
  • Expand the Farm Storage Facility Loan program so urban farmers can finance the cost of marketing and value-added processing in addition to food production.
  • Direct USDA to allow farmers, urban and otherwise, to use contract prices or local prices, rather than national commodity prices, for calculating payments under the Non-Insured Disaster Assistance (NAP) program, and provide minority and beginning farmers with a one-time $500 to offset the purchase of NAP buy-up coverage.
  • Authorize research and technical assistance to explore market opportunities for urban agriculture and develop new technologies for lowering energy and water needs.
  • Assist producers with information on operating rooftop and vertical farms.
  • Support adoption of conservation practices and access to land and production sites in urban communities through Conservation Innovation Grants.
  • Connect urban farmers with rural farmers through education and mentorship support.
  • Invest $5 million in mandatory farm bill funding for tools and equipment to develop community gardens that provide community-based nutrition education and donate a portion of the food grown to help feed their neighbors; and $10 million in mandatory farm bill funding for competitive grants to support research, education and extension efforts to provide outreach and technical assistance for the purpose of enhancing urban agricultural production.
  • Create a new pilot program to provide incentives to urban farmers who use sustainable growing practices and commit to supplying healthy food to their neighbors, connecting urban farms with families who need greater access to healthy, local foods.
  • Expand resources to test and clean up contaminated soils, and invest in new research on the best practices for soil remediation.
  • Create a pilot program to provide urban farmers access to compost while reducing food waste that would otherwise go into landfills.

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.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Farm Bill, Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access

Comments are closed.