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New Farm Bill Contains More Funds To Encourage Eating Local Foods

Program Will Influence Wisconsin Farmers Markets

Farmers market in Appleton, WI
The farmers market in Appleton, WI. Photo: Pat Dye (CC-BY-NC-SA)

The U.S. Senate has passed the long-awaited $956 billion Farm Bill, and a small portion of that funding will go towards programs aimed at growing local food systems.

Funding for the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program tripled in this Farm Bill: Thirty million dollars in grants will be awarded annually to get people eating more locally-grown foods.

Margaret Krome is the public policy director for the East Troy-based Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. She says the program will not only improve research and development, but can help Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs flourish.

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“It helps to build farmers’ markets, expand farmers’ markets, help CSAs get started, expand them,” Krome said. “And now with this new mandate, it’ll do work with institutional marketing, with processing: some of those other barriers that get in the way of the flowering of local foods and regional food systems.”

Other Farm Bill provisions fund programs that aim to get more fresh, local food on the tables of low-income communities.

George Reistad also works with Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, as well as the Wisconsin Local Food Network. He says the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive increases the value of food stamps at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, which Reistad says could have huge impacts.

“To just eat healthier, eat better. To have access to markets where you can buy the fresh, nutritious produce and to then give an incentive,” Reistad said. “Because you have more purchasing power with your EBT card, it gives them the incentive to buy more produce.”

Another program will award grants to groups seeking solutions to combat food insecurity in low-income neighborhoods.