FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011 Dear Mr. Van Meter,
My Name is Rachel Catlett and I am one of the Market Managers for the Delavan Fresh Market a farmers market in Delavan Wisconsin dedicated to providing fresh local produce to our city from farmers and food producers within 50 miles of Delavan. I am very concerned about the loss of small farms in our region of Southeast Wisconsin. Small farms provide the wholesome, fresh, sustainably raised food that is preferable to factory and industrialized food production. Small farmers need our support and the economic stimulii that large agro businesses enjoy. It is time to level the playing field and give small farmers the opportunities to succeed and reach their growing markets.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comment on ways the FCS can better serve small and midsized, local and regional food producers. We support your efforts to diversify the FCS loan portfolio and would ask that in defining what needs to be included in FCS marketing plans that you include:
1. A requirement that each FCS institution create a baseline analysis of producers who meet the farm bill definition of local and regional food producers by number of borrowers, by loan volume, and other key characteristics.
2. An investment goal for local and regional food producers of not less than 10% of each institution’s capital within 5 years.
3. A plan for conducting outreach to local and regional food producers.
4. A requirement that such an outreach plan and periodic progress reports be made public.
5. A commitment to adding local and regional food producers to the FCS board.
6. 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.
7. A plan for developing lending and business support products with terms and benefits appropriate for local and regional food producers.
8. An inventory of strengths and weaknesses of financing for local and regional food infrastructure (aggregation, processing, distributing, etc.) and an FCA plan for how to use FCS local and regional food producer financing to leverage other public and private capital necessary to address the larger weaknesses in the rest of the local and regional food supply chain.
Until we begin to support the small farmer in common sense and fair ways, they will continue to disappear from the rural landscape. As small farms disappear small towns suffer. Countless other small businesses, schools down town districts follow suit and a whole sector of our communities decline. When you help small farmers you help rural communities and small towns all over the country.
Thank you for your time Rachel Catlett 615 Parish St Delavan wi 53115