Tag Archive | Farmers’ Markets

What does the House Farm Bill ‘No’ Vote Mean for Farmers Market?

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Farm Bill cuts to farmers’ markets’ funding will impact the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market’s and other local farmers’ markets’ programs.

Reposted from the Farmers’ Market Coalition Newsletter

Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted down a draft of the farm bill, with thirty House Republicans joining all of the Democrats in voting ‘no’ on the bill. Thanks to YOU and our allies in food and farming who made their voices heard through visits, emails, and calls, this harmful bill developed opposition across the political spectrum! Many of the ‘no’ votes were based on the substance of the bill itself, while some members of the Freedom Caucus opted to vote ‘no’ in an effort to get a vote on an immigration bill that they support.

If you have a moment, now would be a great time to thank your Representative if they voted no on the bill. You can find the results of the vote here. If your Representative voted no, you can still contact them to express your concern.

So what now?

While exactly what happens next is unclear, we do know that the results of Friday’s vote means it’s less likely that a new farm bill will be complete when the current one expires on September 30th. News this week suggests that House Republicans plan to bring the bill up for another vote on June 22, after voting on the immigration bill in question. It remains unclear if there would be enough votes to pass the bill, especially if no additional changes are made to the bill.

Even if the House does pass a bill, they will have to reconcile it with the Senate version. The Senate version is expected to be much more bipartisan, and as a result, very different from the House version.
What happens if a new bill isn’t negotiated in time?

Should Congress fail to pass a new bill or at least extend the current bill, farm bill programs would revert to what is known as “permanent law,” written back in 1938. This threat has historically served as motivation to complete a deal on time. In the event that lawmakers aren’t able to agree on a new farm bill by September 30th, the most likely scenario is that they will extend current bill, as was done in 2012.

Unfortunately for farmers markets and the farmers who depend on them, a standard extension would only include those programs that have what is known as baseline funding, which would not include the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Food Insecurity Nutrition Program, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition.

Fortunately, some legislators are already beginning to think about the fate of these programs and plan for their future.  FMC is working with our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advocate for continued funding for these important programs.

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MLive uncritically looks at GRCC farmer certification program

This article was originally posted on GRIID.

Last week,  MLive posted a story by reporter Brian McVicar, which promoted a new program by the Grand Rapids Community College that seeks to assist local farmer obtain certification and allow them to sell to larger food distributors.

The article states that GRCC is offeringGood Agricultural Practice (GAP)certification classes to area farmers who want to expand their sales beyond farmers markets. Nowhere in the story does the reporter question the premise of the project, which seems to be shifting food sales from farmers markets to involve food marketers and food brokers. The article does not include voices that would suggest that farmers markets are the best mechanisms for promoting local food.

The only sources cited in the article are the director of work force training at GRCC and someone with the MSU extension, which is one of the partners in this project.

However, the article omits the other partners in this project, which according to GRCC are Sysco, Walsma Lyons and Morse Marketing Connections. The MLive story does mention Sysco, but not as a partner.

Understanding who the partners are in this project makes all the difference in the world. Sysco, Walsma Lyons and Morse Marketing Connections do not grow food, they only distribute and market food products. These entities also have a long history of being food brokers and marketers with an emphasis that is not on the local. For instance, Walsma Lyons states they offer access “to a large global network of preferred suppliers.”

Morse Marketing Connections, “originally worked with Michigan-based agricultural groups and has expanded nationally, now working in multi-sector partnerships across a variety of food-related initiatives, with government agencies, private and public universities and corporations.” Sysco, while it has a Grand Rapids office, is one of the largest food distributors in the US.

What the MLive reporter failed to acknowledge or investigate is that when companies like Sysco get involved in purchasing from local growing’s, particularly small farmers is that they then exert tremendous influence in what those farmers grow. The reason being is that Sysco and other food brokers operate on volume, which means they not only are likely to determine food prices, they sometime can determine what farmers grow, based on “the market.” If a small blueberry farmer begins to sell their product to companies like Sysco they are submitting themselves to an unstable market that is often determined by what Sysco other food distributors can market around the country or around the global. This means that when a crop disaster happens anywhere else in the world it can impact the sales of food grown locally that are now in the global market because of their relationship to companies like Sysco.

This topic was explored briefly in the film Food Inc., but is better explained in Raj Patel’s book Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System.

If the local news media is going to report on local programs that are supposed to “assist” area farmers, then they need to ask important questions about the commercial partners in this project and what it really means for farmers and the public.