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National CSA Day: From Farm Fresh to the Farm Bill

February 23, 2018

Kate Edwards runs a vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that feeds families in Johnson County, Iowa. Photo credit: Preston Keres USDA.

Kate Edwards runs a vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that feeds families in Johnson County, Iowa. Photo credit: Preston Keres USDA.

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.

Local Food and the 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:

  • Expanding the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) – SFMNP provides coupons to low-income seniors that can be exchanged for fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey from authorized farmers, farmers markets, and CSAs. The Local FARMS Act calls on Congress to reauthorize and expand SFMNP to include low-income veterans. In order to account for this expanded audience, the bill also requests an increase in funding from $20.6 million to $50 million per year.
  • Creating the Harvesting Health Pilot Program – Authorize the piloting of produce prescription projects that create partnerships between health clinics or similar entities and healthy food access projects (e.g., CSAs, and farmers markets). This pilot program would be designed to demonstrate and evaluate the impact of produce prescription programs in addressing food insecurity, reducing health care costs and supporting local agriculture. The pilot would be funded at $10 million per year.
  • Expanding the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) – FMLFPP is a competitive grants program that funds direct-to-consumer marketing strategies, as well as local and regional food business enterprises that act as intermediaries between producers and consumers. Over the years, FMLFPP has supported many efforts to promote CSA programs across the country, including a 2015 grant to the FairShare CSA Coalition that help them to share their methods of success with other CSAs through the development of a comprehensive toolkit. The Local FARMS Act would expand FMLFPP and increase funding for the program through the creation of a new program called the Agricultural Market Development Program. This program would consolidate FMLFPP and the Value-Added Producers Grant Program (VAPG) in a manner that retains the underlying functions of both, and provide $80 million in mandatory farm bill funding per year.

To learn more about the Local FARMS Act click here, and click here to find more information on NSAC’s entire 2018 Farm Bill campaign.

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.

Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems, Nutrition & Food Access

One response to “National CSA Day: From Farm Fresh to the Farm Bill”

  1. Many Farmer Don’t Know National CSA Day, Thanks For Give Information About National CSA Day. Well Information Local FARMS Act Such as Great.
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