Washington, D.C.—Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has brought back the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, a bill which would help support farmers, increase access to healthy foods for consumers, and provide funding to programs that support local agriculture. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced in the Senate companion legislation to the House of Representatives bill, which was first introduced in 2011 but not enacted.

According to Pingree’s office, the bill will “support job creation by improving federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems.” Ranchers and farmers engaged in local business would benefit in areas including production, aggregation, processing, marketing and distribution.

The bill would improve consumer access to fresh food through measures like funding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program at $25 million annually and increasing funding for the Community Food Projects program from $5 million to $10 million annually. It would also create a pilot program allowing some school districts the option of using school lunch commodity dollars for the purchase of local foods, and it would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct farm-to-school demonstration projects.

“Demand for local food is growing in every corner of the country. Senator Brown and Congresswoman Pingree should be applauded for their efforts to provide the local, healthy food that restaurants, schools, hospitals and consumers are clamoring for. It’s time to fix our broken food and farm system,” said vice-president for government affairs at Environmental Working Group (EWG) Scott Faber in a statement. EWG notes that the U.S. farm bill has provided an average of $113 million a year since 2008 to local and regional food and farming projects, a fraction of the $12 billion in annual subsidies that go to commodity crops grown on the industrial scale.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2013