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Bipartisan amendment to SB 383 to help small local farmers

WV Food and Farm Coalition speaks on bill

By Erica Young

West Virginia Press Association Capitol Reporter

Suggested Headline: Bipartisan Amendment to SB 383 Helps Small Local Farmers

CHARLESTON, W.VA — Senators Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, and Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier,  found success at Wednesday’s Agriculture and Rural Development meeting.

The committee met to discuss the committee substitute for SB 383, relating to the West Virginia Healthy Food Crop Block Program.

This bill would “promote access to fresh, healthy and local fruits and vegetables throughout West Virginia” by giving grants to local farmers to help them grow more nutritious foods

A committee would be assembled by the Department of Agriculture to decide officially who would receive the grants and make rules for implementing the program. This committee would also submit an annual report to the Speaker of the House, Senate President, and the Governor.

Spencer Moss, executive director of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, spoke to the senators about how exactly the program would work.

She said the idea would be to find out which foods are needed across the states and then work with the farmers using a coordinated growing effort to make that happen. This would make the program more community-based.

Senator Baldwin told Moss that some of his constituents had shared concerns with him about being “passed over” by this program and asked her to clarify that this program would benefit small farmers instead of only helping bigger corporations.

Moss said the bill was in fact designed to help small farmers, but that is not explicitly stated in the writing.

Senator Rucker, who also wanted to make sure smaller farmers would receive benefits from the program, proposed a conceptual amendment to the bill that would add a subsection stating that preference would be given to these farmers in an effort to make the language clearer.

Senator Baldwin took this a step further, asking Rucker if she felt it would be appropriate to add that language into two other places in the bill to make the clarification come even earlier. Rucker agreed, and the committee voted to pass the amendment.

The committee substitute for SB 383 will be moved to the Finance Committee and then to the full Senate.

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