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US Senator Stabenow introduces Urban Agriculture Act

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced the most comprehensive urban agriculture bill to be introduced in Congress. The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 will help create new economic opportunities, giving Michigan families greater access to healthy food and creating a healthier environment in cities and towns across our state. The legislation addresses the unique needs of urban farmers by investing new resources and increasing flexibility through existing programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Senator Stabenow announced her legislation during a press conference at D-Town Farm in Detroit with Mayor Mike Duggan and Michigan urban agriculture leaders.

“Urban agriculture is steadily growing in cities and towns across Michigan and across our country, creating new economic opportunities and safer, healthier environments,” said Senator Stabenow. “The Urban Agriculture Act will continue this momentum by helping urban farmers get started or expand their business, so they can sell more products and supply more healthy food for their neighbors.”

“We have an abundance of available land in Detroit and groups like D-Town farms are putting it to productive use in a way that promotes good health and economic opportunity,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “I hope that Sen. Stabenow's bill will help efforts like this expand and allow others to follow in their footsteps."

“As we rethink how we provide food in an environmentally sustainable way for an increasingly urban population, urban agriculture is an important component,” said Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. “Growing food closer to centers of population-density not only provides people with fresher, more nutrient-rich foods but also reduces the carbon released into the atmosphere by transporting food long distances. Finally, urban agriculture, and the associated businesses needed to support it, helps local economies to thrive. We appreciate Senator Stabenow's awareness of the great importance and potential of urban agriculture.”

“A steady increase in the number of urban farms in the Capital City is beginning to impact health and nutrition awareness, good food access, and food security, even as it is transforming fragile neighborhoods,” said Joan Nelson, Executive Director of Allen Neighborhood Center which operates the Allen Market Place in Lansing. “The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 will offer new resources, support, financial tools, educational and economic opportunities that will most certainly accelerate and strengthen these promising changes in urban communities throughout Michigan.”

“This initiative is an important step in supporting the evolving agriculture industry. We applaud Senator Stabenow’s foresight in considering the full range of agriculture, and enacting support to meet the needs of these urban producers,” said Dave Armstrong, President and CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit Services. “GreenStone recognizes the growth of urban agriculture in Michigan, and is pleased to see the risk management, education, and expanded loan guarantees included in this Act that will all help our association to best serve the unique financing needs of urban farmers and their businesses.”

“The Greening of Detroit provides a broad menu of training and employment opportunities for Detroit residents interested in planting trees, growing food, and transforming the vacant land in our city. Every summer we employ more than 180 Detroit Public School students,” said Rebecca Salminen Witt, President of The Greening of Detroit. “They water trees, plant and harvest crops, clean up neighborhoods and parks, and learn about careers in agriculture, forestry, and environmental science. We also offer a five-month, hands-on urban agriculture apprenticeship for people interested in production farming in Detroit. Other Greening training programs exist for Detroiters interested in landscaping or forestry. We appreciate Senator’s Stabenow’s commitment to urban agriculture, forestry, and the local food movement.”

Statement by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation
"Regardless of where or how America's farmers and ranchers produce food, giving them the technology and tools to succeed supports our nation's strength and security. The Urban Agricultural Act of 2016 would do that for farmers in urban settings. As an organization that supports farmers of all sizes, commodities and production systems, Farm Bureau believes this legislation will build a stronger bond among all farmers--rural, suburban and urban."

"This legislation offers services and support to urban farmers. The research component of the bill is not only critical for production, but also for exploring the risk management, food safety, environmental and economic factors that are critical for economic success.

"It's exciting that more Americans want to become farmers. Whether it is access to technical, marketing and educational materials, securing the capital investment to start new ag enterprises or navigating regulations that can kill innovation, all beginning farmers need a helping hand. Mentorship is a two-way street and we have much to teach and learn from each other. America's farmers lend a hand when needed; they unite around a common mission. This legislation seeds a dialogue of cooperation, whether roots sink into a rejuvenated lot in Detroit or the rolling hills of rural Georgia. Farm Bureau looks forward to being a partner in those efforts."

Find out more about the proposed Act here.
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