Senator Stabenow Announces the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016

Most Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Bill to be Introduced in Congress Will Create New Economic Opportunities, Increase Access to Healthy Foods

Monday, September 26, 2016

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.”

The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016

 Creating New Economic Opportunities

  • Agriculture Cooperatives: Expands USDA authority to support farm cooperatives in urban areas, helping urban farmers who want to form and operate an agriculture cooperative get products to market. Reduces individual financial risk and burdensome paperwork by allowing USDA loans to be managed by agriculture cooperatives.
  • Rooftops, Vertical Farms & Indoor Production: Makes it easier for urban farms to apply for USDA farm programs and assists producers with information on operating rooftop and vertical farms. Supports access to land and production sites in urban communities through innovative conservation grants.
  • Cutting-Edge Research: Invests $10 million for cutting-edge research to explore market opportunities for urban agriculture and develop new technologies for lowering energy and water needs. Includes national data collection and a new urban agriculture section in the Local and Regional Foods market report.

Providing New Financial Tools & Support

  • Loans: Expands existing USDA farm loan programs so urban farmers can cover new farm related activities that improve their business. Now urban farmers can use farm loans to finance food production, marketing, and value-added processing.
  • Risk Management Tools: Provides a new affordable risk management tool for urban farmers to protect against crop losses, taking into account the risks, food prices and contracts unique to urban farms.
  • New Urban Ag Office: Creates a new urban agriculture office at USDA to coordinate urban agriculture policies across the Department and provide urban farmers with technical assistance.
  • Mentorship and Education: Connects urban farmers with rural farmers to provide education and mentorship support.

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods

  • Community Gardens: Invests $5 million for tools and equipment to develop community gardens that provide community-based nutrition education and donate a portion of the food grown to help feed their neighbors.
  • Healthy Food: Creates a new pilot program that provides incentives to urban farmers who use sustainable growing practices and commit to supplying healthy food to their neighbors, connecting urban farms with families who need greater access to healthy, local foods.

Creating a Healthier Environment

  • Soil Remediation: Expands resources for technical and financial support to test and clean up contaminated soils, and invests in new research on the best practices for soil remediation.
  • Urban Composting: Creates a pilot program to provide urban farmers access to compost while reducing food waste that would otherwise go into landfills.