Bennet, Wyden, Welch Introduce Legislation to Support Local Farmers, Increase Access to Healthy Foods for Families

Denver — U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Farmers’ Market and Food Bank Local Revitalization Act to support local farmers and increase access to affordable and healthy food options for seniors, families, and young children. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.).

“Americans should have access to fresh, healthy, and locally-produced foods – and Congress can do much more to support family farmers who can deliver these options to their local farmers’ markets and food banks,” said Bennet. “This legislation will help producers in Colorado and across the country access new customers, make things a little easier for families working to put healthy food on the table, and take an important step toward ending hunger in America.” 

“Everyone deserves access to fresh, locally grown produce no matter who they are or where they live,” said Wyden. “Connecting more seniors and families to farmers markets and stands is a win in the fight for food security and a win for Oregon farmers producing some of the finest fruit and vegetables in the world.”

“Every Vermonter deserves access to healthy, nutritious foods, regardless of income or zip code,” said Welch. “That’s why it’s essential that we pass the Farmers’ Market and Food Bank Local Revitalization Act to help more Vermonters put healthy food on the table. I’m proud to join Sen. Bennet and my colleagues to introduce this key legislation and help close the nutrition gap for rural and low-income communities.”

Fresh and local produce from farmers’ markets supports a healthy food source for seniors, families, and young children most in need of healthy foods. However, funding for the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) has fallen since 2008. The legislation makes available loans and grants for new farmers’ markets to be built and current ones to be updated, and creates a pilot program to help connect food banks with local farmers.

Specifically, the Farmers’ Market and Food Bank Revitalization Act would:

  • Increase funding for the Seniors and for the Women, Infants, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs (SFMNP and WIC FMNP) by $230 million over the next five years to support seniors and food insecure families;
  • Increase the minimum individual benefit for SFMNP recipients to $35 and remove the maximum benefit, and increase program eligibility to families whose household incomes are within 200% of the Federal poverty guideline;
  • Increase the minimum individual benefit for the WIC FMNP to $35 and increase the maximum benefit to $60 through 2028;
  • Provide $50 million in funding assistance through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) each year through Fiscal Year 2029 for the expansion, construction, and updating of farmers markets in rural, suburban, and urban food desert areas; and
  • Increase local food production through partnership with food banks by making $7.5 million available in each of the next two years to  build local farmer partnerships g.

“Dollar for dollar, the senior and family Farmers Market Nutrition Programs are among the most effective farm and nutritional programs across America,” said Kaptur. “By connecting farmers with even more of their neighbors, we will ensure those in need have a meal at the dinner table while uplifting the growers and producers who feed us all.”

“I’m pleased to co-lead this bill with Congresswoman Kaptur and Senators Bennet, Wyden and Welch, strong advocates for America’s seniors and farmers,” said Evans. “These farmers market initiatives are win-wins that help both our farmers and the many consumer households, including seniors, who receive vouchers for healthy food.”

“We are thrilled to see the many advances for community food infrastructure and nutrition security included in the Farmers Markets & Food Bank Revitalization Act. Here in Colorado, we are particularly excited about the unprecedented investment in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program since Colorado does not yet participate in SFMNP. We cannot begin to meet the current demand for and interest in access to fresh, local foods with our older adult communities. The limited state-based programs we do offer are some of our most treasured programs. We receive hand-written notes and emails from elders every year talking about how increased access to fresh produce has helped address chronic diseases and brought more vitality to their lives. With the proposed increase in funding for SFMNP, Colorado will finally be able to join the current cohort of SFMNP states. The SFMNP program will not only bring more fresh, nutritious foods to populations with critical health needs, but it will drive more dollars directly into local economies and foster strong community connections with groups that are often quite isolated,” said Wendy Peters Moschetti, Executive Director, Nourish Colorado.

“Investments in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program have proven their impact by increasing access to locally sourced, nutritious foods within low-income communities and generating economic benefit for farmers and markets. We appreciate the leadership of Senators Bennet, Wyden, and Welch on improving the reach of these programs and strengthening infrastructure investments and expanding market opportunities through the Farmers Market and Food Bank Local Revitalization Act,” said Hannah Quigley, Policy Specialist, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“Interest in the Colorado WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has grown with more families receiving coupons every year since the program was introduced in 2021. Due to its popularity, Colorado expanded the number of approved markets from 11 in 2021 to 24 in 2023. Increasing the range for Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program benefits would enable states to maximize the impact of funding so participating families continue to have access to fresh, healthy food while supporting local farmers as well,” said Emily Bash,  Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Coordinator, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

The text of the bill is available HERE. A summary of the bill is available HERE.

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