WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack selected 12 members to serve on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inaugural Secretary’s Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture to provide input on policy development and to help identify barriers to urban agriculture as USDA works to promote urban farming and the economic opportunities it provides in cities across the country.
The new Secretary’s Advisory Committee is part of USDA’s efforts to support urban agriculture, creating a network for feedback. Urban agriculture plays an important role in producing fresh, healthy food in areas where grocery stores are scarce, and also provides jobs and beautifies neighborhoods.
“Urban agriculture has been growing in impact and importance, and we are taking bold actions to build a support structure,” said Vilsack. “I look forward to learning how we can better serve urban agricultural producers, which will complement our efforts focusing on equity, local food systems, access to safe and nutritional food and new ways to address climate change.”
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, was the architect of the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016. The Act laid the groundwork for historic investments to address the needs of urban farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill, including the Secretary’s Advisory Committee.
“With every new urban farm, rooftop garden, and indoor crop, urban agriculture is helping create jobs, increase green space, and feed friends and neighbors,” said Senator Stabenow. “Michigan has long been a leader in urban agriculture. I’m so glad Jerry and others will be able to lend their expertise and wealth of experience to help grow this important sector. This is a historic opportunity to have their voices heard and shape urban agriculture for the future.”
Secretary’s Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture
The Committee is made up of agricultural producers, and representatives from the areas of higher education or extension programs, non-profits, business and economic development, supply chains and financing.
- Jerry Ann Hebron, Mich., Urban Producer
- Bobby Wilson, Ga., Urban Producer
- Viraj Puri, N.Y., Innovative Producer
- Kaben Smallwood, Okla., Innovative Producer
- Sally Brown, Wash., Higher Education
- John Erwin, Md., Higher Education
- Carl Wallace, Ohio, Non-Profit Representative
- John Lebeaux, Mass., Business and Economic Development Representative
- Zachari Curtis, D.C., Supply Chain Experience
- Allison Paap, Calif., Financing Entity Representative
- Tara Chadwick, Fla., Related Experience
- Angela Mason, Ill., Related Experience
USDA and the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production peer reviewed more than 300 nominees, and Vilsack made the final selections. Selections ensured geographic, racial and gender diversity and a broad range of agricultural experience. The new members will serve terms of one to three years.
The first meeting of this inaugural committee, which will be open to the public, will take place in late February. More details will be available in the Federal Register and at farmers.gov/urban and the new Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture website at www.usda.gov/partnerships/advisory-committee-urban-ag-innovative-production.
USDA and Urban Agriculture
The advisory committee and county committees are part of a broad USDA investment in urban agriculture. Other efforts include:
- Grants that target areas of food access, education, business and start-up costs for new farmers, and development of policies related to zoning and other needs of urban production.
- Cooperative agreements that develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction plans.
- Investing $260,000 for risk management training and crop insurance education for historically underserved and urban producers through partnerships between USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) and the University of Maryland, University of Connecticut, and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems.
- Providing technical and financial assistance through conservation programs offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
- Organizing 11 Farm Service Agency (FSA) urban and suburban county committees. FSA will organize additional committees.
The Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production was established through the 2018 Farm Bill. It is led by NRCS and works in partnership with numerous USDA agencies that support urban agriculture. Its mission is to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices, including community composting and food waste reduction. More information is available at farmers.gov/urban and the new Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture website at www.usda.gov/partnerships/advisory-committee-urban-ag-innovative-production.
Additional resources that may be of interest to urban agriculture entities include grants from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture as well as FSA loans.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.