Here’s something that those of us concerned with sustainable, local foods need to be aware of and keep our eyes on.

Yesterday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 to Congress. As the demand for local foods increases, farmers and ranchers need to be able to keep up with demand. This bill will help them do that by boosting their incomes and allowing them to produce more.

A news release by the Environmental Working Group sums up the bill’s main reforms.

  • Increase support for local food production, aggregation, processing and distribution so that farmers can more easily sell healthy food, including locally raised and processed meat, directly to schools, hospitals, stores and restaurants.
  • Enable schools to use more of their federal food funding to buy fresh, local foods. A pilot program would allow 10 school districts to use a percentage of their school lunch commodity dollars to buy food from local farmers and ranchers, instead of through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national commodity food program.
  • Improve the diets of food stamp recipients and low-income seniors by making it easier for them to use food stamps to purchase healthy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs and other direct food marketing services. This would also provide more income for local farmers and stimulate economic activity in nearby business districts.
  • Diversify and promote production of healthy and sustainable food by improving access to credit, crop insurance and other support for organic producers as well as diversified farming operations and smaller-scale and beginning farmers.
For more details on what the bill contains, visit Congresswoman Pingree’s web page Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act: What the bill does. She also has a Local Farms, Food, and Jobs tumblr blog that has updates on food policy and the local food movement that will have up-to-date news about the bill.

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