Does the US Government Actively Discourage Local Food?

We talk a lot about local food here at The Kitchn. We believe that your cooking can be better when informed by your local seasons and crop cycles. We also want to stay connected with local farmers and growers.

So we were shocked to read this opening statement in Jack Hedin's weekend article for The Times:

Consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers’ markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding.

What gives?

Hedin, a small organic vegetable farmer from Minnesota, tells how he is being penalized for growing local vegetables on land that was zoned for growing subsidized crops: corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton.

He says:

Last year, knowing that my own 100 acres wouldn’t be enough to meet demand, I rented 25 acres on two nearby corn farms. I plowed under the alfalfa hay that was established there, and planted watermelons, tomatoes and vegetables for natural-food stores and a community-supported agriculture program.

But the Farm Service Administration, the branch of the Agriculture Department that runs the commodities program, discovered this and told him he would have to pay back the subsidy the landowners received to grow those crops. So he was out nearly $9000 for trying to keep up with local demand for local produce.

He believes that large growers in California, Florida, and Texas actively encourage these policies to stamp out local competition.

We're curious - did you read this, and how does it match up to other things you've read about the subsidies program, the Farm Bill, and corporate farming in America?

• Read the whole article here: My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)

(Image credit: Jacob Magraw-Mickelson for The New York Times)

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