Yesterday, Reps. Shontel Brown (OH-11) and Alma Adams (NC-12) introduced the Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act of 2023. The legislation would build upon the successes of the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production since its launch in 2020. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) proudly endorses this marker bill and thanks Rep. Brown for her leadership in supporting America’s urban, suburban, and rural producers.
The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act will make programmatic reforms to strengthen the content and delivery of technical assistance to urban and innovative producers. It will enable cooperative agreements, increase access to grant funding among farmers, and scale composting and food waste initiatives. The legislation continues—and expands upon—the successes of the oversubscribed programs of the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP).
Established in the 2018 Farm Bill, the OUAIP has led to USDA Service Centers being opened in urban cities for the first time. This has given a growing number of urban, suburban, and innovative farmers increased access to on-the-ground support for navigating farm loans and taking advantage of conservation programs that can support their farm’s success.
“Urban farmers face their own unique challenges when it comes to land use and climate variability in more populated areas,” said OEFFA Grassroots Policy Organizer Nicole Wolcott. “Specific funding dedicated toward supporting local farmers in urban and suburban areas is important to increase the diversity and reliability of our food system. This work is approached as a holistic circle to make sure growers have the support they need and food access for all is prioritized.”
The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act will improve consistency across USDA Service Centers and better support urban and innovative farmers by offering:
- Technical assistance for accessing USDA services designed to support urban and suburban farmers and production in controlled or indoor environments;
- Support with navigating local zoning; and
- Conservation planning that considers unique characteristics of urban and suburban environments, like stormwater runoff.
“I have long envisioned a farm like mine on every block of every neighborhood,” said Jodi Kushins of Over the Fence Urban Farm. “The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act of 2023 would help me access training and zoning support to scale up my work to build a healthier, more sustainable community.”
Supporting our nation’s agricultural future, the act will also enable a better understanding of urban and innovative producers’ contributions to community food security. Through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the bill will fund research that investigates aeroponic, aquaponic, hydroponic, and other controlled-environment production systems. It will also direct the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to complete a data census for urban, indoor, and emerging agricultural producers.
Most importantly, the bill will ensure the OUAIP can grow—and sustain its growth—by providing mandatory funding of $15 million in FY2024, with gradual increases until it reaches $50 million by FY2028.
“Ohio has a really unique landscape with varied food producers,” said OEFFA Policy Director Milo Petruziello. “It is critical that we invest in all who are working to make our urban and rural food systems more resilient. We thank Representative Shontel Brown for being a champion for this in Ohio and her office for working diligently with us to advance the needs of our local farmers and producers.”
OEFFA encourages other members of Congress to co-sponsor the Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act and support its adoption in the 2023 Farm Bill.
The Supporting Urban and Innovative Farming Act is just one of the multiple key marker bills OEFFA is supporting for inclusion in the new farm bill. For more information, visit action.oeffa.org/marker-bill-tracker.