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Push to rebuild regional food systems as 2023 Farm Bill takes shape

© iStock - ArtRachen01
Nadia Ramlagan

(Ohio News Connection) Next week, farmers and their advocates head to Washington, D.C., to push for shifting federal programs toward growing nutritious food, as lawmakers gear up to reauthorize the Farm Bill.

The cost of groceries has increased by 13 percent over the past year, driven largely by global supply-chain issues and the war in Ukraine.

Angela Huffman, co-founder and vice president of Farm Action, said she believes a strong system of local food suppliers would stabilize Ohio's food economy, and help ensure more families have access to fruits, vegetables, and sustainably raised meat.

"The Farm Bill matters to everybody, because everybody eats," Huffman asserted. "A large part of the reason that we're seeing this skyrocketing inflation -- and frankly, price gouging -- is because a small number of really large corporations are controlling our food system and our government policies."

According to an Urban Institute report, around one in five adults nationwide reported food insecurity in their households in 2020 and again last summer, when historic inflation levels sent food prices soaring.

Huffman added the federal government currently purchases food from major industrial producers. She is hoping the new Farm Bill shifts some buying power to local farmers for schools, hospitals and other community institutions.

"We want to be focused on empowering farmers to do what they do and feed their neighbors, and not just feeding corporate-controlled livestock around the world," Huffman emphasized.

Huffman added farmers are struggling to stay afloat in an era of falling commodity prices and the globalization of agriculture. 

"The bulk of the money is going towards feed grains for livestock, which is corn, soybeans, other grains," Huffman outlined. "Farmers are really locked in this system, because that's where the lifeline subsidies are directed towards, and their margins are so slim."

Federal data show in 2019, the nation's small family farm operations held an average of $90,000 in debt.