Last November, Rep. Chellie Pingree, an organic farmer from Maine, introduced federal legislation that could have a profound impact on local food system development across the United States. The proposed legislation would make it easier for schools and institutional buyers to purchase locally grown foods and requires that various federal grants and loans be made available for local food system development. Other components would help food and farm entrepreneurs add-value to locally grown foods through the creation of processing, distribution, aggregation and marketing businesses. Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. More than 65 Members of the House and Senate have now co-sponsored the legislation.
At a time when farmers and rural economies are struggling for survival and schools are trying to combat childhood obesity, the Pingree/Brown legislation (known as the “Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act”) can enhance farmer profitability, grow rural and urban economies through local food business development, and connect consumers with nutritious, locally grown food.
Minnesota has been a national leader in revitalizing our local and regional food system through new farmers markets, Farm to School and Farm to Hospital initiatives, healthy cornerstores, farmer engagement and new businesses that connect “farm to fork”. Recently, 39 Minnesota organizations and businesses representing farm, food, consumer and health groups signed a letter endorsing the Pingree/Brown legislation. Nationally, more than 220 organizations have endorsed the legislation. We hope that you will join us.