Government Programs Stifle Local Farmers

<p>Government subsidy programs designed to support the production of the four major food crops are limiting - even penalizing - small farmers' ability to meet regional demand for local fruits and vegetables.</p>
March 5, 2008, 7am PST | Mike Lydon
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"If you've stood in line at a farmers' market recently, you know that the local food movement is thriving, to the point that small farmers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.

But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers' markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.

As a small organic vegetable producer in southern Minnesota, I know this because my efforts to expand production to meet regional demand have been severely hampered by the Agriculture Department's commodity farm program. As I've looked into the politics behind those restrictions, I've come to understand that this is precisely the outcome that the program's backers in California and Florida have in mind: they want to snuff out the local competition before it even gets started."

Thanks to Leslie Pariseau

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Published on Saturday, March 1, 2008 in The New York Times
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