FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011 Dear Mr. Van Meter,
I appreciate your attention to local food system development and encourage you to adopt the proposed rule that would diversify the FCS portfolio by assisting small, local and regional food producers. My partner and I are beginning a farm, which is small in size and direct-markets our products locally. We find little existing support within the FCS system. Our business plan is sound and we will make an important contribution to our community and our economy in the future; there are FCS programs that could be adapted to meet our unique needs. I encourage you to consider how changes to the FCS could assist other beginning direct- and local-market producers in bringing economic development to rural areas. I am currently a law student and I plan to work with beginning and young farmers in finding available federal support for their work. I have been hoping the FCS would address the rapidly-expanding community of young growers interested in local and regional food system development. These young and beginning growers stand to make a tremendous impact in rural areas in terms of our economic contribution and environmental commitment.
I respect the work of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and stand with them in saying that 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.
Thank you, Rachel Armstrong Lafayette, Colorado
Rachel Armstrong 3300 S CLARKSON ST APT 203 ENGLEWOOD, CO 80113