Next week we team up with our collaborators in the Maine Local Foods Access Network to launch a one-day Giving Tuesday campaign. Our goal: raise $2,000 to help expand the network of Maine Harvest Bucks markets into more communities and find increased success with all participating markets. It’s a humble goal, really, considering that the Network already partners with well over 60 markets (farmers’ markets, farm stands, CSA farms, co-ops, etc…), and is poised to add at least another half dozen sites for summer 2017.
Thanks to the 2014 USDA Farm Bill, we are able to bring impactful programs, like Maine Harvest Bucks, to our state without relying exclusively on local fundraising and in-state resources. The current Farm Bill includes dozens of grant programs that support the development of local agriculture in Maine, including those that focus on local foods access such as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant (FINI) and Farmers’ Market SNAP Support Grant (FMSSG) that support our work to grow SNAP access at farmers’ markets throughout the state. (Click here for a visual breakdown of all “USDA Programs in the Local Food Supply Chain.”)
At a Farm Bill Workshop, hosted last week at Morris Farm in Wiscasset by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, MFFM shared an overview of the low-income access work that we are able to do thanks to these federal funds. Fellow panelists detailed how other Farm Bill programs had benefited their farm’s and/or organization’s work within the local food system. (Click here to watch full footage of the event.) It was inspiring to hear how local farmers and agriculture-oriented non-profits have put these federal funds to use for the betterment of Maine’s agricultural industry.
Each program, of course, comes with its challenges and limitations, and as local food systems blossom in this state, the needs of farmers and those supporting them will shift. With the next Farm Bill slotted for re-authorization in 2018, now is an ideal time to share feedback on the existing programs and any resource gaps that could be filled with new programs.
Our FINI and FMSSG funds are no different and certainly have a fair share of limiting specifications that could be fixed with some reworking in the next Bill. For instance, there are restrictions on television and radio advertisement, which is unfortunate because one blast on either would be a very efficient way to reach thousands of Mainers who may benefit from the Maine Harvest Bucks SNAP bonus program.
Also – and perhaps more significantly – just as the 2018 Farm Bill authorization process begins, there are serious political threats aimed at dismantling programs like Maine Harvest Bucks and even the SNAP program all together (despite continued evidence that it is a remarkably effective food assistance program). This would diminish all the hard work of farmers, markets, and community partner organizations that’s gone into the expansion of these programs into more local foods markets in our state and simply put, more Mainers would go hungry.
That’s where you come in! Two ways to have an impact:
1) Share your voice in the formation of the next Farm Bill so that programs, like Maine Harvest Bucks, will continue improving the health of Maine communities by making fresh, local foods available to all. Stay connected with Pingree’s office for updates about when she will host another Farm Bill workshop or how else you might have input. Click here to familiarize yourself with the basics of the Farm Bill authorization process.
2) Spread the word on Facebook (and around the Thanksgiving table!) that next Tuesday presents a great opportunity to #sharethebounty by contributing to the expansion of Maine Harvest Bucks to more communities throughout the state. Just $10 from 200 people would put us at our goal – can you be one of those people? Learn more at maineharvestbucks.org.