Coming from a family that owned a small grocery store, I developed an understanding of agriculture at a young age. Our family small business prided itself on finding healthy fresh foods for our customers. Often times those foods came directly from local farmers and ranchers, and we were advocates of buying food locally long before it became popular. Unfortunately, our family business was forced out of business by the big grocery stores but the experiences I gained help form my passion for agriculture policy.
As a Member of Congress, I have continued fighting for strengthening local food systems by working to expand the marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers so they can sell their products directly to local buyers. For example, I have authored legislation and secured funding to expand the availability of farmers markets. In addition, I am continually fighting to make sure that the resources available at the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) are made available to all agricultural entrepreneurs regardless of location.
Agriculture is more than just farming and ranching or buying local foods. Agriculture is a major contributor to our economy. In the United States, agriculture provides 1 in 12 jobs. In Ohio, agriculture is responsible for 1 in 7 jobs. Crop and livestock production alone added $166.7 billion to the United States economy in 2011.
However, I believe agriculture can be an even greater component in our economy. There is a vast untapped market in local food production that we need to develop. We need to ensure that the small bakeries with delicious recipes have all the knowledge they need to potentially expand, creating sustainable American jobs.
Below you will find more information about some of my priorities when it comes to agriculture and information on available federal grants and loans available to help agricultural entrepreneurs.
THE FARM BILL
Despite the Great Recession, agriculture has actually increased its contribution to the United States economy by growing about 47 percent from 2009 to 2011. Nevertheless, agriculture is facing many challenges ahead such as a decline in the number of farmers, anticipated global food demand, declining incomes, erratic environmental patterns and a decline in basic agricultural research.
From my perspective, the 2008 farm bill provided the needed resources to help agriculture expand even through difficult economic times. However, several of its provisions are no longer necessary such as direct individual farm subsidies and duplicative countercyclical programs.
The 2008 farm bill expired in September 2012 creating unnecessary uncertainty for farmers and ranchers. Congress should immediately take up a new farm bill that eliminates wasteful subsidies; provides resources to strengthen local and regional foods systems; makes the necessary investments in agricultural research so we can produce food more efficiently to meet future world needs; and ensures that USDA provides assistance to all agricultural producers regardless of where they are located in the United States.
OUR CITY IN A GARDEN
The “Our City in a Garden” white paper was published in 2010 by Toledo GROWs, Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and the University of Toledo. The paper presents a model of a community agriculture system to produce, prepare, process, preserve, and distribute health and wholesome food products within the community.
By taking back control of food production, processing, and distribution, food will become an engine for creating economic benefits within the community. Most importantly, it can create jobs locally.
You can read the full report by clicking here.
Agricultural Production Guide
In an effort to help individuals and organizations understand what potential federal support may be available to undertake an agricultural initiative, I created a guidebook that summarizes some of the major federal programs.
The guide summarizes many of the agricultural assistance programs administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its sub-agencies. In addition, brief information is provided about the programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Contact information is also provided for organizations that can offer guidance to prospective entrepreneurs as they consider starting or expanding an agricultural enterprise.
Specialty Crop and Greenhouse Resource Fact Sheets
The State of Ohio is traditionally known for growing corn and soybeans. However, Ohio is among the leaders in specialty and greenhouse crop production. Ohio’s specialty crop and greenhouse industries have a value of over $500 million. Ohio’s 9th Congressional District is one of the top areas of the state in terms of specialty crop and greenhouse production and value.
Due to the specific nature of these industries, I have created two fact sheets that summarize what potential federal support may be available to help these industries grow and create jobs in Ohio.
You can view the Specialty Crop Resources Fact Sheet by clicking here.
You can view the Greenhouse Resources Fact Sheet by clicking here.
Farm to School Fact Sheet
More recently, a movement is growing across the country to connect schools with local farms in order to serve healthier school meals using locally produced foods, or Farm to School Initiatives.
As a strong supporter of helping farmers and ranchers sell their products locally, I created a fact sheet outlining potential federal resources that may be available to help assists Farm to School Initiatives.
You can view the Farm to School Fact Sheet by clicking here.
Selling to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fact Sheet
Many small agricultural producers likely do not know that USDA buys approximately $4.6 billion annually in goods and services from the private sector to meet needs the government cannot provide. USDA estimates that 60 percent of its purchases are food purchases to support the domestic food assistance programs administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
In an effort to help agricultural producers understand how USDA procurement operates, I created a fact sheet summarizing the process including where to find procurement opportunities.
You can view the Selling to the USDA Fact Sheet by clicking here.