Farmers’ markets need consumers now more than ever.
The new proposed budget cuts eliminate government funding to farmers’ markets, and will take effect when America’s current farm bill expires at the end of 2018. The proposal will end financing the Farmer Markets Promotion Program (FMPP), but will not affect mandatory programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Quartz reports.
The purpose of the FMPP is to allow access to local and regionally produced products and increase market opportunities for farmers. Plus to improve training, outreach, technical assistance, and expansion opportunities. Those eligible for government funding through the FMPP include many other agricultural businesses other than farmers’ markets, such as CSA networks, nonprofit corporations, and agricultural cooperatives, according to the USDA.
Since its start in 2006, the FMPP has helped the amount of farmers’ markets in the US more than double and allows existing markets to expand to larger spaces and cover basic operations, according to Quartz. In addition, the program has also helped increase market revenue, reaching $3 billion from consumers with $20 million of that coming from SNAP shoppers, according to the Agricultural Census.
The Farmers’ Market Coalition has expressed deep concern for the proposed budget, warning that the cuts will remove funding for WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, a coupon that allows low-income, pregnant, and postpartum women to access local produce. The coalition's executive director, Jen Cheek, says the FMPP has helped farmers market increase sales by 27 percent, with a 94 percent increase in new customers.
Congress still needs to vote on the proposed budget plan for the end of 2018, and Quartz reported both Democrat and Republican representatives on the House Agriculture Committee have expressed concerns over it.