Senator Pat Roberts Senator Debbie StabenowChairman Ranking MemberSenate Committee on Agriculture Senate Committee on Agriculture
Representative Michael Conaway Representative Collin PetersonChairman Ranking MemberHouse Committee on Agriculture House Committee on Agriculture
Dear Chairmen Roberts and Conaway and Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson:
As agriculture leaders working to conference the House and Senate-passed Farm Bills, American farmers and families are looking to you to deliver a stronger, more resilient, more sustainable, and more equitable food and farm system. The XXX undersigned organizations ask that, as leaders of the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee, you invest in farmers and rural and urban communities by providing permanent funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).
The LAMP proposal comes at a critical juncture. Earlier this year, the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) predicted that farm sector profits would continue to decline through 2018. ERS has also reported that food insecurity rates remain well above what they were just a decade ago. Supporting LAMP in the 2018 Farm Bill would provide all farmers, including beginning farmers, with the critical tools they need to navigate these uncertain times. LAMP would also encourage equitable access to healthy and sustainable food in thousands of communities across the country by supporting local food and farm businesses.
During the prolonged downturn in the farm economy, farmers and food producers that have participated in the local and regional food sector have experienced a strong return on investment. The potential of this growing marketplace is not merely anecdotal—data from the 2007 and 2012 Agriculture Censuses show that farmers who market food directly to consumers have a greater chance of remaining in business than similarly sized farms that market through only traditional channels . A follow-on survey to the National Census of Agriculture revealed that in 2015 over 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food locally through food hubs and other intermediaries, direct farmer-to-consumer marketing, or direct farm to retail . These sales resulted in $8.7 billion in revenue for producers and according to USDA, the local and regional food sector is expected to reach $20 billion in sales by 2019 .
This economic growth has been fueled in part through policies and programs established in previous Farm Bills, including the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and Value-added Producer Grants Program (VAPG). While these programs have been essential to creating the foundation for resilient local and regional food economies, the House version of the farm bill does not provide them permanent mandatory funding. The lack of permanent funding for these programs not only harms farmers – it will also limit access to healthy, local food for thousands of American communities.
Expanding local markets for farmers and food producers through programs like FMPP, LFPP, and VAPG also helps to make healthy foods more readily available to consumers. This is particularly important in low-income communities with limited access to fresh, high-quality produce. In 2017, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants spent $22.4 million in benefits at nearly 7,400 farmers markets nationwide—representing a 130 percent increase from 2012. Many farmers markets are also home to nutrition education and healthy food incentive programs that work to help shoppers purchase and consume more fruits and vegetables grown by local producers. For example, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, which operated at nearly 1,000 farmers markets in 2015, resulted in an estimated 16 to 32 million additional servings of fruits and vegetables for SNAP households. The success of FINI at farmers markets rests, in part, on a foundation that was built over many years utilizing federal programs such as FMPP.
In LAMP, the Senate Farm Bill offers an opportunity to more efficiently target these valuable yet underfunded federal resources in order to deliver better outcomes. LAMP provides permanent funding for local food and farm programs by streamlining existing programs in order to more efficiently grow farm and food-based value-added businesses, local and regional markets, and strengthen local supply chains that support farm profitability. Bringing these tools and others, including food safety cost share assistance, together builds on the strengths of past Farm Bills while delivering results for farmers and communities across the country.
We, the undersigned organizations, ask you to support permanent funding for the LAMP in the 2018 Farm Bill to create a food and farm system that gives farmers the freedom to thrive and improves access to healthy food. American farmers and communities deserve nothing less.
Thank you for your consideration,