Senator Stabenow Announces the Urban Agriculture Act of 2016

Most Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Bill to be Introduced in Congress Will Create New Economic Opportunities, Increase Access to Healthy Foods

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced the most comprehensive urban agriculture bill to be introduced in Congress. The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 will help create new economic opportunities, giving Michigan families greater access to healthy food and creating a healthier environment in cities and towns across our state. The legislation addresses the unique needs of urban farmers by investing new resources and increasing flexibility through existing programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Senator Stabenow announced her legislation during a press call with urban agriculture leaders, including Tom Colicchio, Food Policy Action co-founder and “Top Chef” head judge, National Young Farmers Coalition Executive Director Lindsey Shute, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.

“Urban agriculture is steadily growing in cities and towns across Michigan and across our country, creating new economic opportunities and safer, healthier environments,” said Senator Stabenow. “The Urban Agriculture Act will continue this momentum by helping urban farmers get started or expand their business, so they can sell more products and supply more healthy food for their neighbors.”

The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016

Creating New Economic Opportunities

  • Agriculture Cooperatives: Expands USDA authority to support farm cooperatives in urban areas, helping urban farmers who want to form and operate an agriculture cooperative get products to market. Reduces individual financial risk and burdensome paperwork by allowing USDA loans to be managed by agriculture cooperatives.
  • Rooftops, Vertical Farms & Indoor Production: Makes it easier for urban farms to apply for USDA farm programs and assists producers with information on operating rooftop and vertical farms. Supports access to land and production sites in urban communities through innovative conservation grants.
  • Cutting-Edge Research: Invests $10 million for cutting-edge research to explore market opportunities for urban agriculture and develop new technologies for lowering energy and water needs. Includes national data collection and a new urban agriculture section in the Local and Regional Foods market report.

Providing New Financial Tools & Support

  • Loans: Expands existing USDA farm loan programs so urban farmers can cover new farm related activities that improve their business. Now urban farmers can use farm loans to finance food production, marketing, and value-added processing.
  • Risk Management Tools: Provides a new affordable risk management tool for urban farmers to protect against crop losses, taking into account the risks, food prices and contracts unique to urban farms.
  • New Urban Ag Office: Creates a new urban agriculture office at USDA to coordinate urban agriculture policies across the Department and provide urban farmers with technical assistance.
  • Mentorship and Education: Connects urban farmers with rural farmers to provide education and mentorship support.

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods

  • Community Gardens: Invests $5 million for tools and equipment to develop community gardens that provide community-based nutrition education and donate a portion of the food grown to help feed their neighbors.
  • Healthy Food: Creates a new pilot program that provides incentives to urban farmers who use sustainable growing practices and commit to supplying healthy food to their neighbors, connecting urban farms with families who need greater access to healthy, local foods.

Creating a Healthier Environment

  • Soil Remediation: Expands resources for technical and financial support to test and clean up contaminated soils, and invests in new research on the best practices for soil remediation.
  • Urban Composting: Creates a pilot program to provide urban farmers access to compost while reducing food waste that would otherwise go into landfills.


 “I applaud Senator Stabenow for introducing comprehensive urban agriculture legislation. As a chef, good food advocate and urban farmer, I know first-hand what a great market there is to for urban agriculture,” said Tom Colicchio, food advocate, FPA-EF co-founder and “Top Chef” head judge.  This bill is pivotal in a revolution to establish market signals to truly support the local and regional food systems in urban areas. I look forward to working with the Senator on educating her colleagues to support such a transformative bill with provisions that will create economic opportunities, increase access to healthy foods and create a healthier environment for cities and towns.”

"The future of rural agriculture depends on the success of urban agriculture, because cities are where many of the next generation of farmers now live,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, National Young Farmers Coalition Executive Director. “Some of America's most successful new farms are run by young people who launched their careers growing in backyards, community gardens and on rooftops. The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 will help urban growers receive fair treatment under the USDA, with better access to credit, resources and research. The National Young Farmers Coalition and all of the urban farmers we represent thank Senator Stabenow for advocating for the needs of city growers." 

"Mayors across our great nation are doing great work in developing and supporting local food infrastructure,” said Tom Cochran, CEO & Executive Director, The United States Conference of Mayors. “The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 is a vital step towards providing cities with the necessary economic tools they need to sustain and grow their local food economies.”

“Urban agriculture is an important part of meeting rising food demands, supplying easier access to highly nutritious vegetables and fruits, reconnecting the food consumer with the farmer, and establishing new market opportunities for emerging farmers,” said Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President. “NFU supports Ranking Member Stabenow’s efforts towards ensuring emerging and existing urban producers have the tools and resources to join rural producers in maintaining a sustainable food system.”

“Regardless of where or how America’s farmers and ranchers produce food, giving them the technology and tools to succeed supports our nation’s strength and security,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President. “The Urban Agricultural Act of 2016 would do that for farmers in urban settings. As an organization that supports farmers of all sizes, commodities and production systems, Farm Bureau believes this legislation will build a stronger bond among all farmers—rural, suburban and urban.”

“As we look at opportunities to engage the public in the broad discussion on healthy, abundant and affordable food, the urban producer can be an extremely effective advocate for American agriculture,” said John Larson, American Farmland Trust Executive Director. “Most consumers, when making choices on what they buy to eat, are visual and hands-on. Urban producers will provide a heightened understanding of where their food comes from, next to where consumers live and work.”

"Interest in healthy and sustainable local food continues to grow and urban agriculture plays an important role in that trend," said Wes King, Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "Senator Stabenow's legislation will help to continue that trend - increasing awareness about the realities of farming in urban communities, creating new economic opportunities, and connecting urban and rural communities through healthy and sustainable food. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition looks forward to working with Senator Stabenow and other members of Congress in crafting a new farm bill that includes robust support for all types of farms, including the growing urban sector."

“This initiative is an important step in supporting the evolving agriculture industry. We applaud Senator Stabenow’s foresight in considering the full range of agriculture, and enacting support to meet the needs of these urban producers,” said Dave Armstrong, President and CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit Services. “GreenStone recognizes the growth of urban agriculture in Michigan, and is pleased to see the risk management, education, and expanded loan guarantees included in this Act that will all help our association to best serve the unique financing needs of urban farmers and their businesses.”

“As we rethink how we provide food in an environmentally sustainable way for an increasingly urban population, urban agriculture is an important component,” said Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. “Growing food closer to centers of population-density not only provides people with fresher, more nutrient-rich foods but also reduces the carbon released into the atmosphere by transporting food long distances. Finally, urban agriculture, and the associated businesses needed to support it, helps local economies to thrive. We appreciate Senator Stabenow's awareness of the great importance and potential of urban agriculture.”