On November 17, an innovative bill that would establish a revolving loan fund program that would support local farm businesses and market gardens was introduced in the Senate. The Growing Opportunities for Agriculture and Responding to Markets (GO FARM) Act of 2011 (S.1888) was introduced by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).
The aim of this bill is to create jobs in the agriculture industry by connecting small farms with local markets, and encouraging production of food for local communities.
“Local farms are job creators in our communities,” said Senator Casey. “This bill will support small farms in Pennsylvania, which are an essential source of economic activity and are vital to getting healthy, local food from farm to table.”
Under the proposals put forth in this bill, USDA would be given the authority to establish a loan program that would provide funding to rural organizations through a competitive grants process. These organizations would in turn establish a revolving loan fund in order to make small, low-interest loans to producers who grow crops for local markets like schools, grocery stores, and farmers markets.
Each rural organization that receives funding under this program would be responsible for providing matching funds, and meeting the following loan program objectives:
- To assist local producers in meeting new market opportunities;
- To provide technical support to local farm businesses and market gardens; and
- To recruit, educate, and assist local producers to advance local farming opportunities to meet local needs.
Loan priority would be given to small and medium-sized producers, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, specialty crop producers, and to address the nutritional needs of underserved areas.
Sen. Casey has also signed on as an original co-sponsor to both the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, which was introduced by Sen. Harkin. Companion legislation was introduced in the House for both of these bills.
To access the legislative text of the GO FARM bill, click here.