Ag Policy Blog

Sodsaver, Local Foods Bills Introduced in Congress

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent

'Tis the season to introduce ideas for the next farm bill and a pair of bills were dropped Wednesday with bipartisan support on both sodsaver and local food issues.

Bipartisan Coalitions Introduce Sodsaver Bill

Sens. John Thune, R-S.D.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; and Reps. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.; and Tim Walz, D-Minn., introduced the American Prairies Conservation Act, a bill to expand a 2014 farm bill “sodsaver” provision from only six states (Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and North and South Dakota) to nationwide.

Sodsaver reduces federal premium subsidies for crop insurance by 50 percentage points on land where native sod has been plowed for crop planting, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition noted.

“America is rapidly losing our few remaining areas of native prairie and grassland,” said Kanika Gandhi, policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “As these lands are plowed and converted to crops, we systematically weaken our ecosystems and reduce ranching and hunting opportunities. The American Prairies Conservation Act will help us to conserve these vital areas by reducing taxpayer-subsidized incentives to convert them to cropland.”

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The Sodsaver legislation: https://goo.gl/…

Local Farm Act introduced

Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; and Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (the “Local FARMS Act”)

The bill would consolidate and streamline a number of federal local food programs, help farmers implement food safety practices, create a new food-as-medicine pilot program to support fruit and vegetable prescriptions for low-income individuals, expand the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program to include veterans, and provide schools more resources to purchase food locally, Pingree said in a news release.

“More and more consumers want to know where their food comes from, who grew it, and how it was produced. This growing demand has been a game-changer in Maine and around the country, increasing sales of local food and providing a bright spot for U.S. agriculture,” said Pingree, a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. “It’s been exciting to see the impact this growth has had on local economies, but imagine what the effect would be if our country invested in it the way we should or if more Americans could access it. I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Local FARMS Act so our farmers can take full advantage of the opportunities in the local food movement and so more consumers can reap its benefits as well.”

“The Local FARMS Act is another creative way in which federal policy can expand the agricultural family, helping reconnect the local farm to the local community and the urban to the rural, with the added benefit of reinvigorating localized economies,” said Fortenberry, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “I’m proud to help initiate this effort in the United States Congress as a part of the upcoming farm bill discussion, and see it as highly impactful to farmers and families, and the growing awareness as to how nutritious food is integral to better health outcomes.”

Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the bill would provide “financial incentives and policy support for local food systems that can create jobs, establish reliable revenue streams for farmers and increase access to healthy and affordable food, especially for low-income Americans. Research shows that thriving local food systems can close the nutrition and health gaps along socioeconomic and racial lines while encouraging spending that keeps local dollars invested in local businesses.”

A summary of the bill https://goo.gl/…

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