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US: New law could bring produce to more low-income areas

U.S. representatives Mike Bost and Robin Kelly are teaming up on legislation that could make it easier for farmers to provide fresh produce to food deserts – low-income areas that don’t have grocery stores selling fresh vegetables.

Last summer they cosponsored the “Feeding America through Farm Flexibility Act of 2017,” which might be part of the next farm bill. The proposed law would allow farmers to plant an additional 5% of their commodity crop base acres to vegetables if the harvest is sold or donated into a food desert with a poverty rate of at least 20%.

Under the Agricultural Act of 2014, farmers already can plant 15% of their base to vegetables if enrolled in the county level price loss coverage (PLC) or county agriculture risk coverage (ARC) and up to 35% if enrolled in the individual farm-level ARC program. The Kelly-Bost bill bumps the allowed levels up to 20% for county-level programs and 40% for individual ARC, if growers meet the requirements to serve food deserts from the extra 5%.

Kelly, who introduced a similar bill two years earlier, said she got the idea after she and her staff met with some of the 1,200 farmers in her district and representatives of the Illinois Farm Bureau. Some of those farmers already allow churches to pick sweet corn or have worked with urban food banks, she said.

“Farmers are already giving and already have the connections,” she recently told Agriculture.com. “This won’t solve all the issues, but I think it will help and it will make a difference.”


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