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Bill Aims To Link Farm To Table

Sen. Ron Wyden says this week he’ll introduce legislation to make it easier for food stamp and school lunch programs to work with local farms and ranchers. April Baer reports the bill would make it possible to go around the traditional federal purchasing system.

Whenever local entities like school districts buy food using federal agriculture subsidies, they choose from a list of warehoused goods the government has approved. Wyden’s bill would allow states to request waivers. With the added flexibility, he says they might instead choose to work with local food producers, and so encourage healthier eating.

Winter vegetables (file photo).

April Baer / OPB

Wyden acknowledged it’s a tough time to get  a bill through Congress, but he says  attention is focused on the Farm Bill.

“Farm legislation is an area where Democrats and Republicans come together,” Wyden said Saturday at the Portland Farmers’ Market. “We’ve got some opportunities so people can be healthier, taxpayers can get more for their money, and we can help our farmer.”

April Baer / OPB
Wyden stumps for farm policy at the Portland Farmers' Market.

The bill would also make some changes to loan rules the U-S Department of Agriculture uses for lending to young farmers and smaller farms.

Because of Washington’s ongoing spending battle, the content of the farm bill is uncertain. Federal farm programs may have to absorb deep cuts.