Federal budget cuts threaten Farmers Markets

FRESNO, Calif.

"What it does is provides me a marketplace where I can sell my fruits and vegetables."

But the real goal is to improve the health of the community, by making more fresh food available. It's part of a growing effort to get people away from the unhealthy food that's all too easy to find.

Genoveve Islas is with the Regional Obesity Prevention Program. She says it's easier and cheaper to buy a Twinkie, made with government subsidized corn syrup, than a carrot.

"Part of the reason for that is because there are subsidies going to the industry that's involved in making that Twinkie and we need more of those subsidies going to small farmers that are growing the fruits and vegetables that are keeping us healthy."

The Department of Agriculture currently provides about 200 thousand dollars a year to Fresno County to promote farmers markets and healthier eating. That compares with the nearly 60 million dollars a year the Department of Agriculture gives to Fresno County Farmers. Most of that doesn't go to food. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, shows 40 million went to subsidize cotton.

"We need to swing back to a healthy food access where those fruits and vegetables and nuts that we grow here are more affordable to our residents so we can encourage healthy diets." Islas said.

A group called Food and Water Watch is going around the state, urging California's Senators to fight cuts to these small, but important programs.

Noell Ferdon is a spokesperson for the group, "This is legislation that can benefit communities and individuals and is not just about farm subsidies." She said at a news conference in front of the Federal building in Fresno on Thursday afternoon.

The Federal Government provides about $5 million a year to help promote farmers markets. Cuts to the program are part of a proposed 6 billion dollars in cuts to agriculture in the 2012 Farm Bill.

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