Weekly Column

Local FARMS Act feeds rural economies

Where our food comes from matters – for our health, for the vitality of our communities, for our wallets, and for the environment. One of the Center for Rural Affairs’ goals is to connect the local people who grow and make food with the local people who eat it.

Value-Added Producer Grant funds available

At Robinette Farms, funds from the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program help pay for processing, marketing, distribution, and sales of pasture-raised chickens, eggs, and microgreens.

This year, $18 million in funding is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) VAPG program. Paper applications are due Jan. 31, 2018, and electronic applications through www.grants.gov are due Jan. 24.

Farm bill renewal is in sight

Congress will write a new farm bill in 2018. Initiatives that support conservation, beginning farmers, local and regional markets, and rural businesses are up for debate.

We believe the new farm bill should:

Cultural connection to food has been lost

Prior to European colonization efforts, the Santee Sioux people in northeast Nebraska were a “food sovereign” nation – they existed in a closed loop system in which they provided for themselves, by their own efforts, from their own land, and without dependence on outside governments and systems. By producing and preserving their own food, the people ensured they had access to abundant sources of healthy food year round.

Rural mental health care must not be overlooked

The challenges that try rural communities in nearly all aspects of health care – greater travel distances, fewer providers, heightened health concerns, lower incomes – also stand in the way of the delivery of behavioral and mental health care services. While there is not a greater prevalence of mental illness among rural residents, a significant disparity exists in access to mental health services and care for rural populations.

In the United States, there are nearly 4,900 areas with mental health professional shortages. Of these, nearly 54 percent are classified as rural.

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