— American Farmland Trust (AFT) concurs with Secretary Tom
Vilsack’s comments at Wednesday’s Senate Agriculture
that there is a role for Farm Bill programs to support the
fast-growing local and regional food production sector with market creation and
infrastructure development in order to promote opportunities for people to enter
“Although these programs are a very small part of the farm bill, they have
had tremendous impacts in creating jobs and keeping farmers on the land,” said
Julia Freedgood, managing director of Farmland and Community Initiatives for
American Farmland Trust (AFT). Senator Stabenow (D-MI) pointed out that $10
million of local food sales results in $40 million of local economic activity.
According to Secretary Vilsack, direct consumer sales from this sector have
doubled in the past decade to reach close to $5 billion in 2008.
Senator Roberts (R-KS) noted that farmers who sell locally are the fastest
growing segment in agriculture, and that they complement commodity agriculture.
However, Roberts and others noted there are 27 different programs to assist this
segment of American agriculture and asked if there are efficiencies to “get the
most bang for the tax-payer buck.”
Freedgood added that the 2012 Farm Bill needs to address three areas --
establishing an efficient and flexible program structure, enhancing market
opportunities for farmers and buyers, and solving infrastructure impediments –
to fuel the local and regional agriculture engine.
“Ultimately farm bill programs help keep U.S. farmland in farming. They
pave the way for young, beginning farmers to enter agriculture, or to help
transfer farm operations to the next generation. They help link farmers to a
wider variety of production and marketing options. They offer consumers greater
food options. Most important, they bring economic vitality to farm operations
and the surrounding community,” Freedgood said.