NSAC's Blog

Guest Blog: “Local Foods, Local Profits” Hill Briefings

May 11, 2012

We want to thank Justin Tatham from NSAC member, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), for his contribution.  Justin is the Senior Washington Representative for the Food & Environment program at UCS, specializing in agriculture, food, and farm bill policy.

NSAC Policy Associate Helen Dombalis and Farmer Jack Hedin

Earlier this week, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) organized two Congressional briefings on the economic potential of local food systems and the programs and policies that are needed in the farm bill to realize this potential and to support this critically important agricultural sector.  The briefings were hosted by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), the lead sponsors of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 1773, H.R. 3286).

For the past year, UCS has been working to shine a spotlight on the economic benefits of local and regional food systems.  Just as importantly, UCS focuses on how smart policies that support the expansion of local food systems can provide much-needed investments in rural communities, create jobs and support family farms, and help increase U.S. production of healthful food.

For example, the recent report Ensuring the Harvest found that if fruit and vegetable consumption increased to meet the USDA’s “MyPlate” dietary guidelines, local food sales could increase to as much as $14.5 billion a year and generate as many as 189,000 new jobs.

Over the course of two briefings, one each for the House and Senate, the panel of speakers delivered hard facts and figures on local food systems, real life experiences and knowledge, and the ins and outs of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA).  The briefing was moderated by UCS’s Ricardo Salvador, Senior Scientist and Food & Environment Program Director.  The panel featured the following speakers:

Jeff O’Hara, Ph.D., Agricultural Economist, Union of Concerned Scientists
Dr. O’Hara is UCS’s leading researcher on the economics of local and regional food systems and is the author of two recent reports on local foods, Ensuring the Harvest and Market Forces.  Jeff’s presentation focused on the economic success of local and regional food systems in recent years as well as the potential for additional growth and job creation that could be aided by smart policies like those included in LFFJA.

Jack Hedin, Featherstone Farm, Rushford, Minnesota
Mr. Hedin is the owner of Featherstone Farm, a 250 acre diversified and certified organic farm located in southeast Minnesota.  The farm produces 50 varieties of fresh market fruits and vegetables for distribution to food stores, wholesalers, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members throughout the region.  Jack is also an ally of NSAC and was recently in DC for a series of meetings with NSAC and House and Senate staffers.  During the briefing, Jack spoke directly to his on-farm experiences in Minnesota, the financial challenges posed to diversified and organic farmers like himself, and the need for improved credit and risk management tools to be included in the farm bill.  Specifically, Jack spoke about the need for a whole farm risk management insurance product, a provision in the farm bill recently reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Bernadine Prince, Co-Executive Director, FRESHFARM Markets; President – Board of Directors, Farmers Market Coalition
Ms. Prince is the co-founder and co-executive director of FRESHFARM Markets, which operates 11 producer-only farmers markets in the Washington metropolitan area with more than 110 farmers and producers from five states who farm more than 9,000 acres.  Bernadine is also the Board President for the Farmers Market Coalition, an NSAC member group which seeks to strengthen farmers markets’ capacity to serve farmers, consumers, and communities nationwide.  Bernadine’s briefing presentation focused on the incredible growth of farmers markets and the critical role that programs like the Farmers Market Promotion Program have played in the success and growth of local markets.

Helen Dombalis, Policy Associate, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
NSAC Policy Associate and lead advocate for local and regional farm and food policy, Helen delivered an overview of the key provisions, programs, and funding included in LFFJA as well a comparison to the draft farm bill that recently passed the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Click here for specific information on how local food policies and programs fared in the Senate bill.

Nearly 50 staff, members of the media, and outside stakeholders attended the two briefings.  In addition to the presentations, each briefing also featured a lively Q&A session with panelists.

For more information on UCS’s work on local food issues, recent reports, and priorities and the farm bill, please visit their website.

Categories: Farm Bill, Local & Regional Food Systems, Organic

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