Act can help Ohio’s local farm economies grow

If the best apples are grown in Ohio, why buy apples from Washington or New York?

We should support Ohio farmers from around the state, helping them grow their bottom lines and sell more products here at home.

That’s why, last week, I introduced the Local FARMS Act to help Ohio farmers expand their businesses and reach new customers by making it easier to sell products directly to Ohioans. The Local Food And Regional Market Supply Act also would expand the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program that helps seniors and low-income military veterans access fresh, local foods at Ohio farmers’ markets.

Before the Senate passed the last Farm Bill, I hosted roundtables with farmers and others in the agriculture community across Ohio. We called it the “Grown-in-Ohio” tour. I heard from a lot of folks about the challenges of connecting farmers who are looking to find new markets for their products with Ohio families eager to buy fresh, locally grown food.

That’s why I introduced the first Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act four years ago, and why we included it in the bipartisan 2014 Farm Bill. This program made it easier for Ohio Farmers such as Daniel, a raspberry farmer in Fredericktown, to expand his and his wife’s raspberry farm.

Programs such as this one are working for farmers like Daniel — they’re helping promote healthy food grown here in Ohio, create jobs, and boost rural economies. As we work on the 2018 Farm Bill, we need to support and expand what we know works.

When we make it easier to connect farmers to their communities, we don’t just help individual farms — we invest in entire local economies. And when folks buy local Ohio food, more of that money stays in the community, and we help create jobs in the small towns and rural areas that are too often overlooked.