FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011
Dear Mr. Van Meter,
I wholeheartedly support the proposed rule that would diversify the FCS loan portfolio by responding to the needs of farmers growing food for their local communities.
I am the founder of The Land Connection, a nonprofit educational organization that trains new farmers, and helps them successfully market their fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs--often to rural food deserts. Based on our 10 years of work in central Illinois, I know that our banks are unfamiliar with small scale entrepreneurial farms, and often unwilling to provide needed financing for farmland (generally small acreages), hoophouses, irrigation equipment and the like.
I am also working with The Edible Economy Project, a group of farmers and citizens creating a food hub in Central Illinois that will allow farmers (both small farms and larger commodity farms wanting to put a few acres into e.g. dry beans for the local market) to grow more vegetables, and bring them to a convenient location to have them washed, sorted, aggregated, stored, and distributed to our local universities, hospitals, and other institutions clamoring for more local food. This food hub infrastructure is desperately needed to help farmers scale up and meet the demand. The USDA Food Hub Subcommittee report has also shown that food hubs create jobs, and create and retain wealth in rural communities.
In order to better serve local and regional food producers like those I work with, you will need to educate FCS personnel about the specific needs of small farmers, and you will need to conduct outreach to local and regional food/farm organizations. I would also highly recommend adding local and regional food producers to the FCS board. Also important would be an investment goal for local and regional food producers of not less than 10% of each institution’s capital within 5 years.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to provide comment on ways the FCS can better serve local and regional food producers, and the consumers who want and need healthy local foods and vibrant rural economies.
Sincerely, Terra Brockman Founder and Board President, The Land Connection
Terra Brockman 1569 Sugar Hill Lane Congerville, IL 61729