The Texas Local Farms and Food Coalition urges Congress to include the PRIME Act (H.R. 2657/ S.1232), Checkoff reform (H.R. 1752/S. 740 and H.R. 1753/ S. 741), the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R. 4316), and the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (H.R. 3941/ S. 1947) in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Texas farmers, ranchers, local food producers, and consumers would particularly benefit from provisions in the Farm Bill to address the following issues.
1. The lack of availability of small-scale meat processors is one of the greatest barriers to the establishment, growth, and profitability of livestock operations producing meat for local and regional markets. Two measures could significantly support local livestock and meat production:
a. Adopt the PRIME Act (H.R. 2657) to allow states to set standards for the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses; and
b. Authorize USDA to use Rural Development and FSA grants and loans for meat and poultry processing infrastructure.
2. Marketing programs should be left to the free market, not funded by mandatory taxes spent by unaccountable, un-transparent private entities. The Checkoff programs should be converted to a voluntary system (H.R. 1752/ S. 740), so that producers can choose for themselves whether to participate based on whether they believe there are benefits.
3. Small-scale producers – including specialty crop growers, beginning farmers, and military veterans transitioning to farming – benefit from a range of very small programs, each of which provides important tools and support to different segments of the industry. We urge Congress to provide mandatory funding for and expand:
a. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
b. Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
c. Risk Management Partnership Programs
d. Value-Added Producer Grants Program
e. Value Chain Coordinators Initiative (Food LINC)
4. Farmers’ markets provide a critical sales outlet for small farmers and, at the same time, provide an important venue for access to fresh healthy foods for consumers from all segments of society. We urge Congress to:
a. Continue and expand the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion program
b. Establish a program for farmers’ market loans and loan guarantees
c. Continue and expand Farmers Market SNAP support grants
d. Increase funding for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition program and expand to include veterans
5. The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) poses huge challenges for specialty crop growers and a wide range of food businesses. We urge Congress to provide support to protect our food security, so as to implement the new regulations without unnecessarily destroying domestic food production. Congress should:
a. Provide mandatory funding of $20 million/year for food safety outreach
b. Establish a new national food safety cost-share assistance program with $10 million per year in mandatory funding to support specialty crop producers and handlers
6. Our agriculture and food system is heavily dominated by a few large companies, preventing the free market from working. We support reforms to ensure that these dominant companies do not abuse their overwhelming economic power. In particular, the federal government should place a moratorium on approvals of major mergers and provide protection for farmers who act as whistleblowers and report illegal activity or other actions of public concern.