From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog:
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture honored Cleveland’s Ohio City Farm by naming it a national model of successful urban agriculture. Spanning nearly 6 acres, Ohio City Farm is one of the nation’s largest contiguous farms and a prime example of how traditionally rural activities like farming can revitalize and reinvigorate urban areas.
Representative Marcy Kaptur, who has represented Ohio’s 9th Congressional district for thirty-two years, has witnessed first hand the emergence of the local food movement and interest in urban agriculture. Ohio has a thriving agricultural sector, but is also home to several large urban districts – including Cleveland and Toledo, both in Representative Kaptur’s district. Recognizing the potential to turn a seeming dichotomy into a symbiotic relationship, Representative Kaptur has long been a champion in Congress for farmers markets, entrepreneurial farming and urban agriculture.
Urban agriculture gives city dwellers a chance to purchase foods from farmers not just in their state, but sometimes right in their very own neighborhoods. In addition to providing a local resource for fresh and healthy food, urban agriculture also creates prime opportunities for food and farm business development, skill training, and a way to educate urban communities about the realities of farming and life in rural America.
As the 114th Congress winds to a close, Representative Kaptur has one final gift for the urban agriculture community– on December 8, 2016 Rep. Kaptur introduced H.R.6481, the Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2016. Viewed as a starting point for discussions of how urban agriculture might be represented in the 2018 Farm Bill, Kaptur’s legislation seeks to address the unique needs of urban farmers while also building deeper connections between urban and rural communities.
The Urban Agriculture Production Act seeks to improve outreach and assistance to current and prospective urban agriculture practitioners by establishing a new Urban Farmers and Ranchers group within USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach. The Urban Farmers and Ranchers Group would be tasked with improving Department coordination, related outreach efforts and administering a new competitive grants program called the Urban Agriculture Outreach Program. The outreach program is designed to support infrastructure development, land acquisition and conservation, education and training and other similar urban agriculture activities.
Rep. Kaptur’s bill would also establish a new Urban Agriculture Research Initiative, which would provide $20 million a year in mandatory funding for competitive research grants for scientific and community-based research that promotes and enhances agricultural production in urban areas.
In addition, to the creation of new programs and initiatives, the Urban Agriculture Production Act would amend and improve a number of existing USDA programs to better support farmers markets and urban agriculture. The following are a few highlights of those provisions:
- Expand credit opportunities by giving USDA’s Farm Service Agency authority to make loans and loan guarantees for the construction of new farmers markets, rehabilitation of existing farmers markets, acquisition of equipment and other related infrastructure, and the purchase or acquisition of land for use as a farmers market and other related activities.
- Increase mandatory funding from $30 million to $35 million per year for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.
- Provide a major increase in funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, from $20 million to $100 million per year in mandatory funding.
- Remove the stipulation that only projects with a one-time contribution are eligible for a Community Food Projects Grant Program award, and increase funding for that program from $9 million to $10 million per year in mandatory funding.
- Amend the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program to include urban farmers and ranchers as an eligible group.
Earlier this fall, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, also introduced legislation to support the budding urban agricultural movement – S. 3420, the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016.
Safe and healthy food access is important for communities throughout Ohio.