Local farmers would see a boost in produce sales under a farm bill promoted today in Toledo by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), if the $120 million-per-year initiative makes it through a politically divided Congress.
Senator Brown joined with Toledo restaurateur Marty Lahey and two area farmers in the cafeteria of the Toledo School for the Arts to promote the legislation.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would encourage schools to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables by allowing school districts to spend a portion of federal funds for free and reduced school lunches on locally-grown fruits and vegetables, rather than USDA commodities.
Senator Brown said the benefits would include students eating healthier foods, local growers and food providers getting more business, and less damage to the environment from the shipping and packaging associated with factory farming.
According to Mr. Brown, the act would cost up to $2 billion over 10 years and would be paid for by phasing out an estimated $22 billion in farm subsidies. The proposal made it through the Democratic-controlled Senate last year with 70 out of 100 votes but it died in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Mr. Brown said committee work to re-introduce the bill and try again to pass it starts next week.
“By increasing access to fresh local foods, we can expand markets for Ohio’s agricultural producers while improving health, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy,” Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Lahey, owner of Manhattan's Restaurant, has catered lunches at the Toledo School for the Arts charter school in downtown Toledo for the last seven years, as well as at six other schools.
"We've seen a growing demand in the restaurant for fresher, more local fruits and vegetables," Mr. Lahey said. "The bill the senator's talking about would help move in that direction."
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