Washington, DC: On Wednesday morning, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a Farm Bill hearing on “Healthy Food Initiatives, Local Production and Nutrition,” with six witnesses testifying, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The hearing comes on the heels of the release of USDA’s new report to Congress about local and regional food initiatives, the digital document “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass,” which was the subject of a national virtual conversation from the White House on Monday.
Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) opened the hearing by noting that locally grown foods are helping create new market opportunities for farmers and agriculture producers across the country, while also helping to provide families greater access to healthy and nutritious foods. Witnesses during their testimony covered everything from the impact of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to farm to institution sourcing; the importance of federal nutrition programs including SNAP for combating hunger; the growing demand for farmers markets; to the importance of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, as well the benefits of local food initiatives in a tough economy, including the healthy impact on jobs.
Stabenow said that food hubs and local food systems are a ‘win-win’ for agriculture, and helping to re-introduce agriculture to a younger generation of up-and-coming farmers and ranchers.