Farmers and Anti-Hunger Advocates Call on Gov. Hogan to Use Budget Surplus to Fight Food-Insecurity and Support Local Agriculture
March 19, 2018
For Immediate Release
March 19, 2018
Millersville, MD (March 19, 2018) – In conjunction with Maryland Agriculture Week, declared by Gov. Hogan as March 18-21, and the state’s recent announcement of a $430 million budget surplus, farmers and anti-hunger advocates have renewed their calls for the Governor to fund the Maryland Farms and Families Program.
The Maryland Farms and Families Act, which passed the General Assembly unanimously during the 2017 legislative session and Governor Hogan signed into law, created an unfunded grant program within the Maryland Department of Agriculture that would support matching programs at Maryland farmers markets. Such programs provide a dollar-for-dollar match for purchases made using federal nutrition assistance at participating farmers markets throughout the state, connecting food-insecure Marylanders with quality, fresh foods produced by local farmers.
“Although the governor did not see fit to fund this initiative in his initial budget, we are hoping that, given the revised estimates, he will change his mind,” said Michael J. Wilson, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “This is a tangible way to bring Marylanders together; by investing in the food that is grown here and ensuring that low-income Marylanders can purchase that food. It’s a small but significant investment that would mean a lot to many people.”
Farmers market matching programs (such as Maryland Farmers Market Association’s Maryland Market Money) were first introduced in Maryland and have rapidly proliferated throughout the country. States like Minnesota, California, and New Mexico fund farmers market programs because they are a win-win: the same dollar simultaneously supports local farmers, provides the most vulnerable households with critical access to nutritious foods, and bolsters the local economy.
In addition to many letters from the agriculture community sent in directly to Governor Hogan, Department of Agriculture Secretary Bartenfelder, and members of the General Assembly, The Delmarva Farmer’s editorial board recently called for funding for the Farms and Families Program, saying that “there is room — and reason — to get this done.” With a readership of 35,000, The Delmarva Farmer is the leading agricultural publication, and de facto voice of small farmers, in our region.
“It is all too rare for a program to be celebrated by individuals of all political affiliations and among rural, urban and suburban communities alike,” said Alicia LaPorte, Campaign Manager of Fair Farms, a state-based advocacy group working to build a more sustainable and equitable food system. “By funding the Farms and Families Program, Governor Hogan has the opportunity to be a champion for a common-sense initiative that unites Maryland,” continued LaPorte.
“Maryland has a vibrant agricultural landscape with 2 million acres in production and it is regrettable that 12.7% of Marylanders— 760,000 people — are food insecure, “ noted Amy Crone, founder and executive director of Maryland Farmers Market Association, the non-profit that currently runs the only statewide food access program, Maryland Market Money. “Every dollar that funds the MD Farms and Families Program will benefit both farmers and food insecure Marylanders – providing additional income for farmers and access to nutritious fresh food for our most vulnerable citizens.”
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About Fair Farms Maryland
Fair Farms Maryland is a movement of environmental and public health groups, businesses, consumers, and farmers committed to a sustainable and equitable food system. Fair Farms Maryland seeks to create awareness about the relationship between agriculture, water, food and public health; galvanize Marylanders to reduce agricultural pollution; and support farmers, businesses and public policies that promote healthy, sustainable agricultural practices. fairfarms.org
About Maryland Farmers Markets Association
The Maryland Farmers Market Association (MDFMA) was founded in 2012 to connect people with Maryland farmers markets and to provide resources and coordinated services to market managers, farmers, and consumers alike. A statewide nonprofit, the MDFMA operates programs to provide access to healthy local food for all and improve the quality of and transparency at Maryland farmers markets. marylandfma.org