Monday, March 05, 2012

Senate Farm Bill Hearing: "Healthy Food Initiatives, Local Production and Nutrition"

Livestream on Wednesday, March 7: Witness list includes Sec. Tom Vilsack and Walmart's Senior Director of Local Sourcing & Sustainable Agriculture...
On Wednesday, March 7, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, will convene a Committee hearing for the upcoming Farm Bill on "Healthy Food Initiatives, Local Production and Nutrition." The hearing "will explore innovative opportunities in agriculture through policies that assist the development of local markets for farmers – connecting them to the growing consumer demand for locally-produced, healthy food options." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify, as will Ron McCormick, Senior Director of Local Sourcing & Sustainable Agriculture for Walmart. Walmart's potential impact on farmers and local and regional food systems is sweeping: It is the largest grocer in the US, and the largest private-sector partner for First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. (Above: Mrs. Obama unveils Walmart's plans)

Walmart has committed to drop the price of fresh produce and other healthy foods, and build or revamp up to 300 stores in "food deserts" as part of the First Lady's Let's Move! pledge to eradicate all US food deserts by 2017. In some states, more than 50% of Walmart's sales are through the use of federal SNAP benefits, also known as Food Stamps, according to the company. Walmart recently announced that it had "saved" consumers $1.7 billion in food costs in 2011, as part of the Let's Move! commitment.

The hearing begins at 9:30 AM EST in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, and a live webcast can be viewed on the Committee’s website at http://ag.senate.gov.

The USDA last week unveiled the Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Compass, a massive digital project that doubles as a report to Congress on the agency's efforts to support local and regional food systems.

Walmart is based in Bentonville, Ark, and a farmer from Arkansas, Jody Hardin, will also testify before the Committee. He is a fifth-generation family farmer, and co-founder of the Foodshed Farm All Arkansas Basket-A-Month program, which is based at Hardin Farm in Grady. Anne Goodman, President and CEO of Cleveland Foodbank, Cleveland, OH, which received a $100,000 grant from Walmart in January, will testify.

One of Stabenow's constituents, Dan Carmody, President, Eastern Market Corporation, of Detroit, MI, is also on the witness list. Eastern Market runs one of the largest urban farmers markets in the US, among other food access projects. John Weidman, Deputy Executive Director, Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA, is the final witness. The Food Trust is a non-profit that works on healthy food access issues, including farm to school sourcing and bringing healthy foods into "underserved" communities.

Witness List

Panel I
Hon. Tom Vilsack, Secretary, US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC

Panel II
Mr. Dan Carmody, President, Eastern Market Corporation, Detroit, MI
Mr. Ron McCormick, Senior Director of Local Sourcing & Sustainable Agriculture, Walmart Stores, Inc, Bentonville, AR
Mr. Jody Hardin, Farmer, Grady, AR
Ms. Anne Goodman, President and CEO, Cleveland Foodbank, Cleveland, OH
Mr. John Weidman, Deputy Executive Director, Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA

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