By Brian Filipowich
The new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production created by the 2018 Farm Bill had been sitting in limbo for the past year. The USDA declined to establish it without dedicated funding from Congress.
On December 20, 2019, the President signed into law H.R. 1865, The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. The Law includes $5 million for the Office.
The Mission of the Office is to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices, including:
- community gardens and farms located in urban areas, suburbs, and urban clusters;
- rooftop farms, outdoor vertical production, and green walls;
- indoor farms, greenhouses, and high-tech vertical technology farms; and
- hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farm facilities.
The Office will disburse $10 million in grants before 2023 intended to “facilitate urban agricultural production, harvesting, transportation, and marketing.”
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was the main sponsor of the new Office, and was responsible adding it to the 2018 Farm Bill. This past Fall, Senator Stabenow introduced an amendment to appropriate the $5 million to fund it.
The next step is to establish the Advisory Committee that will guide the establishment of the Office. The Committee is to be composed of 12 individuals from various sectors of the urban and innovative ag field.
The Farm Bill directed the establishment of the advisory committee by Summer, 2019. The USDA missed the target date because of the lack of funding and the USDA’s major relocation project from Washington, DC to Kansas City, MO, which “has resulted in catastrophic attrition at USDA’s top research agencies.”
Hopefully, with the new funding, the USDA can establish the Office soon.