Proposed Legislation Would Support Urban Farming With USDA Resources

Proposed Legislation Would Support Urban Farming With USDA Resources

By Marti Benedetti

September 26, 2016 11:00 a.m. Updated 9/26/2016

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced Monday that she is introducing legislation that addresses the needs of urban farmers by offering them U.S. Department of Agriculture resources and programs.

Stabenow, D-Mich., made the announcement with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Michigan urban agriculture leaders at D-Town Farm, Detroit's largest urban farm, on the city's far west side.

The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 would create new economic opportunities for urban farmers through agriculture cooperatives, rooftop and vertical farms, access to research that explores marketing opportunities for urban agriculture, and developing methods for lowering energy and water needs.

The legislation is to be formally introduced this week.

“The next step (if the legislation passes) is urban farmers will have the capacity to use all of the USDA services that rural farmers have,” Stabenow said.

The bill includes $10 million to support cutting-edge farming research and it would open a new USDA office in Washington, D.C., to help urban farmers get started or improve their existing business, the senator said. Another $5 million would go toward supporting community gardens and education for nutrition, sustainable growing practices, soil remediation and composting.

It would also benefit urban farmers in large and small cities.

Stabenow said the bill builds on the farm legislation she authored and was signed into law in 2014.  

“I’m going to brag a bit,” she said. “Malik (Yakini of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network that runs D-Town) and other people involved for a long time in Detroit farming are the experts on urban farming. When I talk to folks around the country about urban farming, they say, ‘Why are you asking me? The urban farming expertise is in Detroit.’”

Yakini said at the news event that he is hesitant to comment on the legislation. “I’ve not seen the bill,” he said. “We hope it will be helpful.”

He added that legislation that would make access to capital easier for urban farms would be appreciated. “The challenges are access to capital and access to land, even though a third of the city is vacant land,” he said.

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