MFU urges Minnesota Legislature to reinvest in Good Food Access
May 8, 2019
The Minnesota Legislature’s conferees for the agriculture omnibus bill have an opportunity to increase funding for statewide access to healthy and affordable food. This is incredibly important to family farmers and rural Minnesotans, according to Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) policy.
The Good Food Access Program (GFAP), a grant program administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, is designed to increase access to healthy and affordable foods in areas of the state lacking access to grocery stores and other food outlets. Bipartisan bills were introduced in both the House and the Senate this year to reinvest in GFAP, though only the House included the funding increase in its omnibus bill version. MFU supports the House’s proposal, which would invest up to $350,000 per year to continue this critical program.
“Many rural Minnesota communities have lost grocery stores or have one that is struggling. The Good Food Access Program helps small stores modernize and provides support for farmers markets and mobile markets,” said MFU President Gary Wertish.
An increased investment is needed because year after year, demand is greater than the funding available. The latest round of grants was recently awarded for fiscal year 2019, including recipients in several rural communities such as Red Lake Nation, Cook, Finland, Greenbush and Mabel. Other past recipients have included communities such as Clarkfield, Oklee, Hoffman, Kerkhoven, St. James and Wadena.
The program is important for farmers especially because many of the small grocery stores in the state carry Minnesota-grown produce, meat, poultry and eggs. To expand the benefits of the fund, the University of Minnesota-Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships has been conducting a pilot program that uses rural grocery stores to connect small and medium-sized farms to wholesale markets through backhauling from rural grocery stores via the trucks of wholesale grocery suppliers.
“This effort helps stores install better refrigeration and freezer systems so they can carry fresh and local foods,” President Wertish said. “It would provide more diverse markets for family farmers so they can get fairer prices for their products.”
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org).