Greenfield Recorder 08/20/2014, Page A01
By RICHIE DAVIS Recorder Staff
As part of a three-day “food and farm” tour of his district, U.S. Rep. James McGovern led a team of officials through stops at the Franklin County Community Development Corp.’s Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield and Four Star Farms in Northfield.
Together with Edward Avalos, U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, the Worcester Democrat led a delegation that also included representatives from the state Department of Food and Agriculture, USDA Rural Development and members of the state House.Tuesday’s visit, with Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, attending the segment at the 250-acre former dairy farm that now grows sod, grains, hops and potatoes, also included stops at Real Pickles in Greenfield and Artisans Beverage Cooperative in Greenfield.
Earlier in the day, there were stops in Amherst, Hadley, Hatfield and Northampton.
Avalos, a former marketing director at the New Mexico Agriculture Department, described initiatives in the 2014 Farm Bill to encourage local and regional food production and distribution, including an expanded, $65 million Specialty Crops Program that provides Massachusetts with $474,000.
It also includes a new Local Food Promotion Program.
Yet John Waite, the CDC’s executive director, told McGovern that USDA’s commodity foods program, which has been expanded to include vegetables as part of an effort to boost nutrition in the schools, makes it difficult for the Food Processing Center — with federal support as part of a Farm to Institution grant — to compete with bulk vegetables from California, because the quantities available are more limited.
Avalos said he believes there should be a way to encourage school cafeterias to procure part of their order from local producers like the Western Mass. CDC and added that he would look into the matter.
McGovern said, “More and more, people want to know where their food comes from, and Massachusetts has become a national leader in the ‘buy local’ movement.”
He encouraged future meetings to bring USDA, Department of Labor and other agencies together to discuss issues faced by local farmers trying to boost their marketing to local customers.