Local Foods Bill Will Provide Healthy Food and Create Jobs
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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 yesterday in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two identical bills expand business and marketing opportunities for farmers and ranchers while increasing consumer access to healthy foods. The legislation addresses production, aggregation, processing, marketing and distribution barriers that limit growth in local and regional food markets. The bill also makes targeted investments in programs that create jobs and spur economic growth through food and farms.
“We applaud Representative Pingree and Senator Brown for reintroducing this legislation,” said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “Local and regional agriculture is a major driver in the farm economy, yet producers face significant infrastructure, marketing, and information barriers. The bill addresses those barriers and makes smart investments that expand economic opportunities for farmers, increase jobs and improve healthy food access in rural and urban America.”
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has been closely involved in the development of the bill. Originally introduced in 2011, the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act gained the support of nearly 100 legislative co-sponsors and more than 280 organizational supporters in the previous Congress. Due to Congress’ inability to finalize a new five-year farm bill in 2012, an updated version of the bill is being reintroduced this year and is intended for inclusion in what will hopefully be the 2013 Farm Bill.
“This bill will improve the economics of farming in Maine and across the country,” commented Maine organic farmer Sarah Smith, who joined Rep. Pingree, Sen. Brown and Chef Tom Colicchio on Capitol Hill for the reintroduction of the bill. “Passage of the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act will mean more jobs and income for farming communities nationwide and greater availability of high quality locally and regionally produced food for consumers.”
The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act includes provisions in seven different titles of the Farm Bill, including proposals that address crop insurance, credit, nutrition, rural development, research and extension, horticulture and livestock. Many of the bill’s provisions were included in either or both the Senate-passed and House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bills in 2012.
The bill also invests in several sustainable agriculture programs that were left stranded and without funding by the 2008 Farm Bill extension passed earlier this year, including the Farmers Market Promotion Program, National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and Value-Added Producer Grants.
“For an investment of just more than $100 million a year, the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act can help a growing sector of the food system flourish,” said Hoefner. “This investment is tiny in overall farm bill terms—roughly one-tenth of one percent of total farm bill spending—but big in its power to deliver real, lasting and market-based benefits to farmers, consumers and communities.”
Some of the specific proposals within the bill include:
Whole Farm Revenue Insurance for Diversified Operations
The bill would direct U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Risk Management Agency to develop a Whole Farm Diversified Risk Management insurance product that is available in all states and all counties. The product is relevant to all diversified operations, including, but not limited to, specialty crops and mixed grain-livestock or dairy operations, contract producers, and organic and conventional farms. The new insurance product would be offered at the same buy-up coverage levels as other policies, include a strong crop diversification bonus, and account for all the normal costs involved in moving the crop off the farm and into marketing channels.
The bill will improve institutional access to local and regional foods through a series of provisions regarding school meal procurement. For example, the bill would create USDA pilot projects through which school systems could experiment with local food procurement and would allow small school districts to make their own food purchases on an ongoing basis if doing so creates administrative savings.
The bill boosts rural investment by restoring funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant program to $20 million a year and improving its delivery, with an emphasis on regional market and supply chains. The bill also strengthens the Business and Industry Loan funding set-aside for local and regionally produced agriculture products and food enterprises, and provides authority for local and regional food system funding under Rural Business Opportunity Grants, Rural Business Enterprise Grants and Community Facility Grants and Loans.
Farmers Markets and Local Food
The legislation will establish $20 million a year in mandatory farm bill direct funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The expanded program will support direct farmer-to-consumer marketing but also will provide grants to scale up local and regional food enterprises, including processing, distribution, aggregation, storage, and marketing. Fifty percent of funding will go to direct marketing, with the remaining 50 percent to local and regional food system development beyond direct marketing, including institutional and retail value chains and markets.
The bill also increases funding for the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program and provides funding for incentives through the SNAP program to encourage low-income consumers to purchase healthy local food directly from local farmers.
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The bill would expand the purpose of the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to include the consumption and availability of local/regional specialty crops, the profitability and ecological sustainability of specialty crops and the affordability of specialty crops for low-income consumers.
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
The legislation includes a provision to streamline and renew funding for national organic certification cost share to assist organic producers with the annual regulatory costs of producing certified organic products.
Assistance to Small and Very Small Meat and Poultry Processors
The bill improves market access for local and regional livestock and poultry producers by enhancing USDA’s technical assistance and guidance to such facilities. It also helps farmers, ranchers and small local processors by providing greater public information from USDA on approved meat labels.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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