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"The USDA could spend more than $1 billion over five years to promote urban agriculture, farmers markets and regional food systems under legislation backed by a dozen House Democrats. Lead sponsor Marcy Kaptur filed the bill with an eye toward its inclusion in the 2018 farm bill, to be drafted soon. “As Congress readies to debate the farm bill, I’ll fight for programs that bolster farmers, develop our urban centers and help create jobs,” said Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat. “Too many urban neighborhoods are in food deserts that lack stores where people can purchase fresh, healthy foods, so the federal government needs to step up and improve access to nutritious foods.” The House bill, HR 3699, would put $100 million into research to improve the productivity and profitability of urban agriculture; $200 million into farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer sales, such as roadside stands, agri-tourism and community-supported agriculture; and $250 million into inclusion of low-income veterans into the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The bill also calls for $250 million in discretionary spending on grants to set up urban farms, educate the farmers and establish food hubs, and $250 million in discretionary money for the Senior Farmers Market program. A spokeswoman for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said urban agriculture is one of Stabenow’s top priorities heading into the farm bill. “We’re working on this and will have more updates this fall.” Stabenow sponsored an urban agriculture bill in 2016. The Kaptur bill would devote a tiny part of farm bill funds to urban agriculture. The 2014 farm law costs around $90 billion a year."

Posted September 12th, 2017