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Farm Bill 1.10: Why the Next Food and Farm Bill Needs a Competition Title

by Yi Wang & Eric Weltman, Food and Water Watch
February 2012
American farm policy and corporate mergers have created powerful agribusiness giants with dominant market shares—corporations that control virtually every of segment of the industrial food system. A leading agricultural economist in 2002 concluded that consolidation across the food system has hurt farmers and consumers more than the efficiency gains it has generated.1  While monopolies and oligopolies have captured the bulk of the profits, small and midsized family farms have gotten squeezed out. Workers face exploitative conditions and consumers end up paying higher prices, with millions living in food deserts without access to fresh food.

There is a growing movement to (re)build food systems that are good, local, sustainable, and fair. Alternative certification schemes such as organic and Fair Trade and marketing channels such as farmers markets, food hubs, and community-supported agriculture (CSAs) offer practical examples of visions for a more equitable and sustainable food system. Unfortunately, voting with our wallets and forks alone is not enough. As the ‘alternative food movement’ works at the local level to restore links between consumers and farmers, urban and rural, and to secure justice and rights for workers, we must also address the rules that govern the food system. The next Farm Bill presents a critical opportunity to chip away at the power of agribusiness and to build fair and sustainable local food systems.

Real Farm Bill Stories: Lower Eastside Girls Club

by Suzanne Babb
October 3, 2011

The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP) has existed since 1996 as a program to fight food insecurity through developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. Community Food Projects are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs. The program is designed to meet the needs of low-income individuals by increasing their access to fresher, more nutritious food, increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, and promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues.

I sat down with Jennifer Sugg, CSA manager, and Apolonia Euvin, member of the Lower Eastside Girls Club and part of the CSA team, to talk about how they have used the Community Food Project (CFP) grant and the impact it has had on their community.

Q: What are the mission and goals of the Lower East Side Girls Club and how does the Community Food Project fit into your mission?

Real Farm Bill Stories: Greenmarket, GrowNYC

by Cheryl Huber
October 3, 2011

Greenmarket, a program of GrowNYC, was founded in 1976 with a two-fold mission, to promote regional agriculture by providing small family farms the opportunity to sell their locally grown products directly to consumers and to ensure that all New York City residents have access to the freshest, most nutritious, locally grown food the region has to offer.

What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers market network in the country, now with more than 50 markets, over 230 family farms and fishers participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development.

Greenmarket received a grant through the USDA/AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) in 2009, enabling the expansion of its food access work. Through the grant funding, Greenmarket made healthy, locally-grown food more accessible and affordable to lower-income neighborhoods by increasing the number of farmers’ markets who accept SNAP (Food Stamps) Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT) and by assuming operations of the Wholesale Farmers Market (WFM), located in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx.  The funding available through FMPP was critical in reaching these goals.

Real Farm Bill Stories: Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program

by Jonathan Thompson
October 3, 2011

The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) awards grants provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for fresh, local foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, thereby helping to increase consumption of locally produced food provided through direct farmer marketing.

During federal FY 2010, benefits were available nationally to 844,999 low-income seniors from 20,106 farmers at 4,601 farmers' markets as well as 3,681 roadside stands and 163 CSAs. The federal FY 2010 grant to New York State was $ 1,936,972. In New York City, seniors receive their SFMNP coupons at congregate meal sites and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Food and Nutrition sites.

Last year in New York City, the SFMNP distributed $20 booklets to 56,501 low income senior households. To be eligible, at least one member of the household must be over 60 and the household must be at or below 185% of the federal poverty level ($20,147 for a single person household and $27,214 for a two person household). Of the checks issued, just over 80% ($908,628) were used. (This does not equate precisely to 80% of the households since, in some cases, less than a full booklet of $20 was used.) Issuance in 2011 is quite close to last year’s issuance.

The check booklets can be used at any of the 123 markets. Many of the markets are also equipped with EBT terminals so customers also can use their SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits to purchase fresh produce from participating farmers.

Watch this video of seniors using SFMNP checks at markets in Mount Vernon and Niagara Falls, New York.

Real Farm Bill Stories: Farm School NYC

by Ed Yowell
September 3, 2011

The idea for an urban farm school was a collaborative vision, conceived by community gardeners, urban farmers, and many involved in the greening movement. Many people were asking for opportunities to learn more about growing food in New York City, and they knew that NYC has a rich history of community gardening and a wealth of urban farms. The folks at Just Food first began an official planning process in September 2007, thinking about what it would take to train new and would be farmers to grow food to make a difference in the nations’ largest city.

After considerable thought and planning, a group of over 60 different partners decided that Farm School NYC would provide comprehensive, professional training in urban agriculture with the aim of increasing the self-reliance of communities and inspiring positive, local action around issues of food access and social, economic, and racial justice. “The idea,” says Jane Hodge, director of Farm School NYC, “was to help develop new and beginning community gardeners and urban farmers to address food sovereignty in their communities.”

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