AmericanFarm.com

Urban ag could be an answer (Editorial)

(Oct. 11, 2016) In Baltimore, in the two Newarks (in Delaware and New Jersey) and in major cities across the country, entrepreneurial urbanites are growing vegetables and other food on roof tops, or cleaning the rubbish off an empty lot, tilling it modestly and planting a crop, or even planting large flats with seed and putting the flats out the window on the fire escape.
Urban agriculture has become a part of the landscape in our major big metropolitan complexes and it’s winning the applause and an enthusiastic helping hand from the nation’s agricultural policy makers.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she knows that we don’t have an economy unless we make things and grow things.
In writing the 2014 Farm Bill, Stabenow and the ag committee claimed to have streamlined more than 100 programs while making historic investments in land and water conservation, clean energy, local food systems, specialty crops and is helping to reinvigorate the economies of small towns and rural communities through her support of cutting-edge research and bio-based manufacturing.
Her committee also supported bipartisan food and farm legislation that “put an end to unnecessary subsidies in favor of expanding crop insurance to ensure that farmers won’t go out of business when a weather disaster strikes.”
Now, she’s at it again.
On Sept. 6, she introduced the Urban Agricultural Act of 2016 to increase assistance for urban farmers.
The legislation, as outlined, is designed to create new economic opportunities for agricultural cooperatives, rooftops, vertical farms and indoor production and cutting-edge research.
It would also provide new financial tools and support in the form of loans, risk management tools, a new Urban Ag office at the USDA, and mentorship and education. 
Long-term, and if it works, the bill would increase access to healthy foods through community gardens and create a healthier environment with soil remediation and urban composting. The bill has won the support and applause of the American Farm Bureau Federation and state Farm Bureau organizations where urban ag has become evident, among them in Maryland.
“Maryland Farm Bureau appreciates the challenges faced by farmers producing food on repurposed lots in Baltimore City and Rockville, Md., as well as those producing in rural communities on the Eastern Shore and in the mountains of western Maryland,” said Chuck Fry,  Maryland Farm Bureau president.
“Our grassroots organization stands ready to assist farmers of all sizes from all locations,” Fry said. “MFB’s goal is to make sure legislators in Washington and Annapolis understand we are all in this together.  The Urban Agricultural Act will give farmers in population centers the resources they need to bring local food to all our urban tables.”
Fry’s point is well taken.
Farmers are all in this together. Farm Bureau believes this legislation will build a stronger bond among all farmers — rural, suburban and urban.
And as all of agriculture is called upon to “feed the world, ” urban ag can start right here at home.