Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today introduced legislation that would create a competitive grant program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dedicated to the promotion of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA is a renowned and proven system that directly connects consumers with the farmers who grow their food. At the beginning of each growing season, members of CSA pay for a share of a farm’s produce. Throughout the season, members receive a weekly box containing their share of the farm’s yield for that week.
“Community Supported Agriculture can be a key component for providing our families with more locally grown produce,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first New York Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in 40 years. “Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs over the years, bringing fresh, vitamin-rich fruits, vegetables, eggs, homemade breads, meats, and cheeses to tables all across America. Supporting and promoting local businesses and healthy diets, this arrangement benefits both the farmer and the customer. CSA has already done so much for this country – let’s give it the boost it needs to reach even more Americans, especially our brave men and women who have served in our armed forces returning home and looking for work, and those in low income areas where nutritious foods are difficult or even impossible to come by.”
There are more than 12,000 CSA farms currently operating throughout the United States and approximately 350 in New York alone. Both numbers are expected to rise steadily in the coming years.
Senator Gillibrand’s Community Supported Agriculture Promotion Act’s competitive grant program would award federal funds to non-profit organizations, extension services, and state and local government agencies to provide grower support – ranging from marketing and business assistance to crop development – to new or current CSA farmers, as well as assist in the development of innovative delivery and distribution programs. These efforts can help attract more consumers to CSA, facilitate the formation of multi-farm CSA arrangements, and promote participation in CSA through outreach and education activities.
Preference would be given to projects working with family farms, farms operated by or employing veterans – a provision authored by Senator Gillibrand – and those that expand CSA reach into “food deserts,” or low income communities without access to fresh food around the country.
Statistics show that more than 45 percent of service men and women live in rural communities. Service members returning home to their families and experiencing high unemployment often find farm work as a way not only to make living, but also to help ease their transition back to civilian life.