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Bill Would Extend Farm Safety Net To Urban Growers

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SCIONDRIVER
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A Michigan senator is introducing legislation that would let urban farmers access the traditional agricultural safety net.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) says urban farming tactics such as community gardens and rooftop, hoop house or vertical growing are letting more people get into the business.

She told reporters on a press call Monday that she wants to make sure these farmers are included in the 2018 Farm Bill -- an omnibus package of food and agricultural policy that was last reauthorized in 2014.

"The goal is both to create new economic opportunities for urban growers and food entrepreneurs, and increase access to healthy food," she says, "and to create sustainable practices that will create a healthier environment in our cities as well."

Stabenow's bill would extend USDA programs such as farm loans and conservation incentives to farmers in cities and towns.

However, the legislation doesn't deal with food stamps, whereas the Farm Bill does. Some conservative lawmakers have advocated separating those issues from agricultural policy in the next Farm Bill. Nutrition assistance makes up the majority of its budget.

Stabenow says she thinks her bill will create a more inclusive final Farm Bill, with bipartisan backing.

"The more that people see opportunities for their state, for their community, the more, I think, we will gain very broad support for a Farm Bill," she says.

The Indiana Farm Bureau is also trying to balance urban and rural interests as it looks ahead to the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization, which will begin ramping up next year.

The IFB's recently finalized lobbying agenda for next year supports programs to alleviate food deserts -- a provision suggested by the Indianapolis-area chapter.