Farmers’ markets, organic producers in line for federal subsidies

 
Columbus Business First
By Dan Eaton
4/16/13

Ohio’s organic farms and farmers’ markets may be in line for some renewed financial support. Sen. Sherrod Brown re-introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act as part of the farm bill.

The act would pump funds back into two programs that have been dormant since October, while creating some new resources for those in the local foods movement. The bill was first introduced in 2011.

“Linking Ohio producers with Ohio consumers is common sense,” Brown said in a press release. “By increasing access to fresh, local foods, we can expand markets for Ohio’s agricultural producers while improving health, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy.”

Ohio had 260 farmers’ markets in 2011, according to information from the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, a nonprofit promoting sustainable and healthful food and farming.

The bill would put $20 million into the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, which hasn’t been funded since October. It provides grants to community-supported agriculture programs and farmers’ markets to increase exposure through new marketing ideas and business plans. Six Ohio markets received funding in 2012 for a variety of uses including adding electronic benefit transfer system capabilities for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. According to the Food & Farm Association, the Toledo Farmers’ Market, for example, added 1,000 customers and increased total sales by 20 percent by adding EBT.

The bill also would restart funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which also has not been funded since October. It reimburses organic producers and handlers for 75 percent of certification fees. In 2011, 251 Ohioans used it, about 40 percent of the state’s organic growers.

The bill also proposes investments in research, training and information collection including a national program within the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative for local and regional farm and food systems research and for conventional plant and animal breeding research. It also would create an insurance product through the Risk Management Agency to ensure organic farms can get adequate coverage.

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