Van Hollen Joins Fetterman, Brown in Introducing Bill Investing in Underserved Farmers, Increasing Access to Fresh Foods in Urban Communities
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in introducing the Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act of 2023, legislation to support the growth of urban and suburban farmers through increased programmatic and research funding.
For the first time, USDA Service Centers are opening in urban cities across the nation to position themselves near the growing number of urban and suburban farmers and provide farm production and conservation services. The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act makes programmatic reforms to the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP) to improve the content and delivery of technical assistance to urban and innovative producers, enables cooperative agreements with community experts, increases access to grant funds directly to farmers, and scales up composting and food waste initiatives.
“Urban farming is a simple yet powerful way to expand green space in cities, reduce pollution runoff into waterways, and combat food insecurity. Building on our initial federal investments in urban agriculture, this legislation will further bolster this growing industry by making more resources available to help farmers improve their operations and increase access to locally grown, healthy food in their communities,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“I came to Washington to fight for forgotten communities and urban areas are notably underserved when it comes to food security and nutrition,” said Senator Fetterman. “As Chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee, I am proud to introduce this bill that will combat food deserts and malnutrition in urban areas and support small, beginning, and underserved farmers. My legislation will increase existing investments in PA agriculture through vertical farms, community gardens, and much more.”
“Urban farmers create jobs and opportunity in Ohio cities, and help feed our communities – yet too often they haven’t had the support they need to compete,” said Senator Brown. “This bill will provide new tools and resources to support urban agriculture, from research to technical assistance and direct investment.”
“As urban agriculture grows across Pennsylvania and the Nation, it’s critical we support urban farmers with the resources they need to thrive,” said Senator Casey. “The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act will connect farmers with federal grants and bolster innovation and research, helping our agricultural producers adapt our food production to meet the evolving demands of the future.”
“I’m proud to introduce legislation that would make it easier for farmers and producers—both urban and rural—to access grant funds that promote innovation and get technical assistance from USDA. I’m all in to get this bill over the finish line,” said Senator Wyden.
The bill also ensures the program can sustain its accelerated growth by providing mandatory funding at $50 million annually. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees zeroed out the OUAIP account, entirely cutting crucial funding to bolster local food supply chains in urban communities and invest in innovative production. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to provide annually sustained funding for this valuable USDA program.
“The Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production has been essential to strengthening networks of growers and consumers through infrastructure, education, and local planning initiatives among urban, suburban, and rural communities,” said Hannah Quigley, Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauds Senators John Fetterman and Sherrod Brown in their leadership to introduce the Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act, which will address the unique needs of urban, innovative, and indoor operations, increase access to program funding, and scale the office to meet the rapidly growing demand.
"No one should have to choose between eating healthy and eating enough -- but many families living in urban areas simply do not have any convenient, safe places to shop for fresh food in their communities," said Mark Edwards, President & CEO of The Food Trust, a national nonprofit focused on healthy food access, affordability and education. "This bill will provide the necessary infrastructure and funding to support retailers and farmers alike in establishing access to healthy food for all, including those living in traditionally under-resourced areas."
“Bowery applauds Senators Fetterman, Brown, Markey, Van Hollen, Wyden, and Casey for working to ensure that the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry has the tools and resources it needs to thrive,” said Colin O’Neil, Director of Public Policy & Social Impact for Bowery. “CEA is uniquely poised to help expand the year-round domestic production and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables while also helping to build more sustainable and resilient supply chains. In order to see its potential fully realized, the federal government must play a greater role in fostering innovation, accelerating research and data collection, and ensuring that CEA producers, urban and rural alike, have the tools needed, just as the Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act seeks to do.”
The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act of 2023 is endorsed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, CEA Alliance, Fair Food Network, Food Trust, PASA Sustainable Agriculture, ReImagine Appalachia, RAFI-USA, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Produce Perks Midwest, Farm to Table NM, Local Matters, Ohio Association of Foodbanks, and Michigan Food & Farming Systems.
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