Wyden to propose ag legislation

Sen. Ron Wyden is introducing legislation to help Oregon's agriculture sector.

Sen. Ron Wyden is introducing legislation designed to help Oregon's agriculture sector.

Sen. Ron Wyden announced over the weekend his intent to introduce some legislation later this week designed to seize an opportunity to better leverage the state's agriculture to provide healthy foods for schools and the poor.

Among his proposals will be a waiver program that would allow states to opt out of one-size-fits-all food stamps programs and develop state programs to feed the poor that would better connect produce from local farms with people who need food.

"We have the opportunity to reinvent the food stamp program," Wyden said.

Wyden, one of Oregon's two Democratic senators, also has his eyes on overhauling school lunch programs.

The proposals, unveiled Saturday, were developed with the help of a 28-member agriculture advisory committee Wyden created this year.

Other components of Wyden's plan include:

  • Focusing federal nutrition spending — on food stamp and school lunch programs — on promoting local small farmers in addition to healthy food.
  • Modifying the USDA's Farm Service Agency loan rules to make it easier for young people to buy farmland and for small and medium farms to get loans.
  • Establishing a process for pre-certification of grocery stores and other food outlets to eliminate so-called "food deserts," which are areas within cities without easy access to healthy food.
  • Setting up a microloan program for small farmers that would reduce required paperwork.

Oregon's agriculture sector accounted for $4.3 billion in sales in 2010.

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