MFT’s 2023 Farm Bill Priorities – Local & Regional Food Systems Development

MFT’s 2023 Farm Bill Priorities – Local & Regional Food Systems Development

May 4, 2023


Kristina Buckley

In this series, we are taking a deeper dive into each priority and how you can support. This week, we are tackling local and regional food systems development.

Every five years, Congress drafts a new federal Farm Bill, which determines how billions of dollars are spent in our communities. The Farm Bill shapes what’s grown on the land and who grows it, conservation and climate, the safety of our food system, and the economic health of rural businesses and communities. This year we’ve outlined our four top priorities to advocate for inclusion in the Farm Bill. These priorities are: 1) farmland protection and access, 2) local and regional food systems development, 3) climate-smart agriculture, and 4) a federal safety net for PFAS-impacted farms.

The 2023 Farm Bill should make needed investments in business technical assistance and local and regional food systems development so that Maine’s farms and rural communities are better positioned to thrive.

Maine farmers need federal legislation that supports them as they grow their operations, compete in new markets, and transfer farm businesses to the next generation. Customized technical assistance for farmers and food entrepreneurs builds profitability through business planning, market development, financial literacy, management skills, and other needs. We are advocating for a 2023 Farm Bill that advances federal business technical assistance and economic and market development programs to provide needed support, grants, and loans to Maine farms, as well as investments in local and regional food systems development.

How we will support change:

We are advocating for Farm Bill-funded programs that invest in business technical assistance and strengthen in-state agricultural infrastructure and processing capacity, such as dairy and livestock processing. Infrastructure and processing needs in Maine far exceed allocated funding to date. We are encouraged by recent funding announcements that seek to strengthen local food economies, such as the Regional Food Business Centers announcement, but want to see these efforts made permanent for sustained support to each region of the country.

We specifically would like to see the following responses within federal programs:

  • Provide funding for business technical assistance to support farmers in growing and diversifying their businesses.
  • Provide sustained support for infrastructure and processing development to help farmers expand and adapt their businesses and support the growth of local and regional food systems.
  • Ensure federal programs providing food to low-income Americans, seniors, and institutions prioritize purchasing from local small- and medium-size producers and/or entities led by historically underserved or socially disadvantaged communities, and that producers are paid fair, market equivalent prices for their products.
  • Increase funding for the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) to assist producers with diversifying their businesses through value-added production, accessing new markets, and building local and regional supply chains.
  • Strengthen access to LAMP by streamlining the application process, ensuring equitable distribution of funds across geography, and reducing match requirements.
  • Provide funding for services that support farmers and farmworkers with stress and wellness programming.

How can you get involved?

The Farm Bill is an expansive piece of legislation – while it sounds like a single bill, it will be a package deal that includes hundreds of provisions that address and fund agriculture-related programs and policies. To get these many provisions included in the Farm Bill, “marker bills” for specific provisions must first be introduced to Congress as part of that process. Many markers bills have already been introduced and others are forthcoming.

One way that you can get involved is by encouraging your Members of Congress to support legislation that advances local and regional food systems. We support the marker bills below, and encourage you to sign up for MFT’s Policy Alerts to hear about upcoming marker bills and take action to show your support.

Example #1: MFT is supportive of the bipartisan, bicameral Strengthening Local Processing Act, a marker bill introduced earlier this year with the aim of having it integrated into the next Farm Bill. The legislation aims to diversify and make the U.S. meat processing more resilient by giving local livestock and poultry producers more options will increase processing options for local livestock and poultry producers. The legislation would create a competitive grant program for small and very small establishments, state inspected facilities, custom exempt facilities, or new small-scale slaughter facilities to help increase processing capacity and grow resiliency.

Maine’s District 1 Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Angus King are both supportive of the Strengthening Local Processing Act. Get involved by reaching out to say thank you or by contacting District 2 Representative Jared Golden or Senator Susan Collins and urging them to sign on.

Example #2: The Local Farms and Food Act which was introduced as a marker bill in April 2023. The Local Farms and Food Act will improve equity and access to the suite of Local Agriculture Market Programs (LAMP) and expand the reach of impactful nutrition incentives. This bill will provide a variety of programmatic reforms and increase funding to scale for program demand.

Maine’s District 1 Representative Chellie Pingree is one of the sponsors of the Local Farms and Foods Act. You can get involved by reaching out to say thank you to Representative Pingree or by contacting District 2 Representative Jared Golden, Senator Angus King, or Senator Susan Collins and urging them to sign on.

Representative Chellie Pingree (District 1)
Washington DC Office – Phone: (202) 225-6116
Portland Office – Phone: (207) 774-5019

Representative Jared Golden (District 2)
Washington DC Office – Phone: (202) 225-6306
Bangor Office – Phone: (207) 248-7400

Senator Susan Collins
Washington DC Office – Phone: (202) 224-2523
Bangor Office – Phone: (207) 945-0417

Senator Angus King
Washington DC Office – Phone: (202) 224-5344
Bangor Office – Phone: (207) 945-8000

You can learn more about our 2023 Farm Bill Priorities by downloading a full copy of our top recommendations, which includes why the issue matters to Maine farmers, how we are advocating for change, and a list of specific desired changes within federal programs.

Are you a farmer interested in joining MFT to create policy change? Share your priorities and get involved.

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