Ames, Iowa — A diverse group of local food experts from across the state has submitted a set of recommendations to the Iowa Legislature that are intended to improve the farm-to-table supply chain.
The Farm to Table Task Force was commissioned during the 2021 state legislative session and was led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. They have met over the last several months.
The charge was to identify strategies to improve the farm-to-table supply chain in Iowa, with a special focus on increasing sales to institutional purchasers, including schools. The task force consisted of 12 local food experts representing farmers, distributors, food pantries, small-scale processors, and customers.
John Lawrence, Iowa State University vice president for extension and outreach says that to meet this charge, it was important to understand the state’s challenges and strengths within the farm-to-table supply chain, to then be able to confirm priorities.
Staff from the Iowa Department of Land Stewardship and ISU Extension and Outreach also connected with additional partners across the state to listen and understand challenges, successes, and potential recommendations for the local and regional food system.
The task force began meeting in September, and in under four months, its members produced five key recommendations that were shared with the Legislature in early December. The task force met three times throughout the fall of 2021, of which public comment was allowed at the end of each session.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig thanked the task force members and all the stakeholders who provided input during the process. He says that the recommendations from the task force will help develop and grow markets for Iowa producers while also helping to strengthen the local and regional food systems. He says they look forward to continuing to work on building this important market into the future.
Recommendations from the task force include improving sales of local foods to institutions, including farm-to-school and early care efforts, by increasing the efficiency of local food distribution and awareness of local options for institutional buyers; developing and supporting expanded processing opportunities for local foods; researching and increasing support for local food farming and scaling up local food agriculture; revitalizing and expanding the Local Food and Farm Advisory Council; and increasing the usage of the Farm-to-Food Donation Tax Credit and exploring other food donation programs.
The Task Force also determined which of these recommendations would require legislative action, funding needs, and a potential timeline for implementation.
The full report is available online.