FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011
Dear Mr. Van Meter,
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comment on ways the FCS can better serve small and midsized, local and regional food producers.
As a small, diversified beginning CSA farmer in Wisconsin, specializing in perennial fruit production, it is encouraging to learn of the FCS's efforts to diversify their loan portfolio. All around us in Wisconsin we see signs of reshaping and building a food and agriculture system that creates opportunities for smaller farmers, provides healthful, locally produced food for citizens, is good for the environment, and boosts local and regional economies as product and ideas are not fully outsourced. Yet, one of challenges myself and other beginning women farmers face on our farms is access to capital for improvements and innovations to infrastructure changes, for example, a post harvest pack shed and technologies for improved energy efficiency. More investment in local and regional food systems for small and mid-sized farmers also creates a more transparent landscape for the community of growers and eaters to collaborate, innovate, and improve the quality of their services and products.
The national increase of profitable, smaller-scale farms using primarily local markets is giving rise to the notion that profitable sustainable agriculture, supported by more-localized markets, is a realistic option and one that I hope you will consider strongly investing in when diversifying your loan portfolio which our farm supports. I would ask that in defining what needs to be included in FCS marketing plans that you include:
A plan for conducting outreach to local and regional food producers.
An investment goal for local and regional food producers of not less than 10% of each institution’s capital within 5 years.
A requirement that such an outreach plan and periodic progress reports be made public.
A commitment to adding local and regional food producers to the FCS board.
A plan for providing staff development training to FCS personnel across the full spectrum of lending, accounting, farm transfer and business planning services appropriate for serving local and regional food producers.
A plan for developing lending and business support products with terms and benefits appropriate for local and regional food producers.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and your commitment to investing in healthy food and a healthy future for farmers to thrive.