New Bill Could Help Ohio Farmers Sprout New Business

Public News Service, Mary Kuhlman, 10/10/2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio lawmaker is leading the charge on new legislation that could help sprout new business opportunities for local farmers. Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced the Local FARMS Act – FARM standing for Food and Regional Market Supply. It would enhance three current grant programs that help expand business opportunities and build sustainability for local farmers.

One of the programs is the Value-Added Producer Grant, which Ann’s Raspberry Farm in Central Ohio was awarded in 2014. Co-owner Daniel Trudel says it provided funding that enabled their business to establish a presence in other states and propel online sales.

“I cannot speak enough of how much this has helped us,” he says. “We were able to write a grant ourselves, and put a plan together and it was accepted. So it really, really has helped us enter new markets that otherwise would have been impossible or very difficult.”

The legislation also funds and modifies the Local Food Promotion Program, which invests in local food production, and the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which helps farmers sell products to local consumers. A companion bill was introduced in the House.

Trudel says these are programs that are essential to building sustainable local food systems. And he notes they are also helping to create micro-economies in rural communities.

“We have a print shop that we now use for all our labeling,” he adds. “We have a local supplier for our jars, local ingredients. We partner with a local farmer to grow some of our agricultural commodities, namely peppers for us. Not to mention the staff that we had to hire.”

Sen. Brown said the legislation can help Ohio farmers grow their bottom lines and sell more product at home. According to the USDA, in 2015 over 167,000 farms in the U.S. produced and sold food through farmers markets, food hubs, and other direct market channels resulting in over $8.7 billion in revenue.