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US: $8,5M funding restored for Urban Ag, including indoor farms

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, successfully restored $8.5 million in funding for the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production in the Senate-passed Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill. The Office assists urban, small-scale, and innovative producers with technical and financial assistance that supports community farms and gardens, and rooftop, indoor, and vertical farms and other innovative production. Together, this increases greenspaces in communities, access to fresh, local foods, and new pathways to jobs in agriculture.

Initially, neither the Senate nor House agriculture appropriations bills included dedicated funding for the Office of Urban Agriculture and innovative production until Stabenow filed an amendment and led her colleagues to restoring funding to the office and its programs. The amendment was cosponsored by Senators Brown, Blumenthal, Booker, Durbin, Fetterman, Gillibrand, Rosen, Warnock, Markey, Wyden, and Cassidy. It was approved by voice vote. The appropriations package that included Stabenow’s amendment passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 82 to 15 and must now be conferenced with the House before being signed into law.

“Urban agriculture is growing in cities and towns across the country, creating new economic opportunities and healthier communities,” said Stabenow. “It also increases greenspace, builds more resilient communities, and provides access to fresh, local foods. That’s why my amendment was so important - restoring this funding will ensure that urban agriculture can continue to grow and thrive as an emerging sector.”

“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauds Senator Stabenow and her colleagues’ leadership in securing essential funding for the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production,” said NSAC Policy Director Mike Lavender. “Demand for the Office continues to steadily grow – from connecting urban centers to fresh produce, enabling growers to explore emerging indoor technology, offering training opportunities for youth, and much more. We look forward to continuing to work together to secure funding for the office in any final FY2024 appropriations legislation.”

“The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) applauds Senator Stabenow’s work to restore funding for urban agriculture at USDA, which helps diversify production methods for fresh fruits and vegetables and build resiliency in local and regional food systems,” said IFPA Vice President of U.S. Government Relations Rebeckah Adcock. “Urban and innovative agriculture offers tremendous opportunities for sustainable production and puts fresh produce closer to the consumers who needed it most to improve their health and reduce hunger, especially in underserved communities.”

“We appreciate the steadfast leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow and the bipartisan co-sponsors of her amendment for ensuring that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has the resources it needs to support controlled environment agriculture,” said Executive Director of the CEA Alliance Tom Stenzel. “Continued funding for the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production is important to the success of U.S. high-tech greenhouses and indoor vertical farms. Countries around the world are investing in indoor farming, and the U.S. has an opportunity to lead innovation in this rapidly growing sector of agriculture.”

Stabenow has long championed urban agriculture as both Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee. It was through her leadership that the 2018 Farm Bill formally recognized urban agriculture at the United States Department of Agriculture for the first time by establishing the office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production and supporting grant programs. Since then, the office has invested more than $50 million in more than 230 grants and cooperative agreements across the country to support urban agriculture.


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