Nebraska lawmakers could create markets for homegrown food

Small Towns

By Ron Todd-Meyer, Lincoln, Nebraska

As a member of the steering committee of the Nebraska Food Council, I am writing to support Legislative Bill (LB) 304. I am a retired farmer who spent 35 years, for the most part, raising commodities. I remember being told by politicians and agribusiness that Nebraska farmers were feeding the world.

Nearly a decade ago, a 2010 study by the Crossroads Resource Center of Minneapolis examined how much money Nebraskans spend on food and what percent of those food dollars stay in our state. The numbers are startling. Nebraskans annually spend $4.4 billion on food but only 10 percent of those dollars stay in the state. The 90 percent of the food that is imported into Nebraska travels on average 2,000 miles before it gets to our dinner plate.

For a state that prides itself on being a breadbasket of the world, it’s unbelievable—as well as risky—that we overwhelmingly rely on outsiders for our food. Seventy years ago, we largely fed ourselves. We need to get back to supplying some of our local diet.

LB 304, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford, would provide a small step in boosting local economies with Nebraska produced and processed food.

Cottage industry products such as locally-produced jams, jellies, bread, and other baked goods are being sold successfully at local farmers markets and should be allowed in other markets. Having watched the demise of rural communities over the past 70 years, I believe any steps that will create markets for locally-produced food would be positive steps toward revitalizing rural economies. I urge lawmakers to pass LB 304 so it can be enacted into law.