New program for Washington-grown products

This article was originally published in November 2001


A new program called “Buy Washington” may encourage consumers to buy home-grown apples, for example, instead of those labeled with a New Zealand sticker. The program is being funded with $3 million of a $10 million federal agricultural grant announced by Gov. Gary Locke. Locke says the grant money is meant to support and promote small Washington farmers and so-called “direct marketing” of small-farm products and farmers’ markets. Direct marketing means farmers sell their products directly to consumers, which gives them a larger share of the retail dollar. Direct marketing can keep a farm from going under.

Supporting local farmers keeps money in the local economy, preserves open space and helps consumers know how their food is produced, says Bonnie Rice, coordinator of the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, which campaigned for the program.

PCC Natural Markets supported the campaign, sending a letter to the senate chair of the State Agriculture Committee, Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen, last January. That letter is printed below:

Dear Senator Rasmussen,
I’m writing this letter on behalf of PCC Natural Markets and our 40,000 member households. PCC has seven stores in the Puget Sound area and is the largest cooperative retailer of natural and organic foods in the United States. We strongly support Bill #56-13 and the Small Farm and Direct Marketing program.

As a consumer-owned co-op with strong ties to many small farms, we believe small farms would benefit from the assistance described in this bill. It would address imbalances in current rules and encourage scale-appropriate regulations. It would help develop the infrastructure needed to support market access for small farms. It would assist farmers in developing value-added products. It would promote localized, more secure food systems.

Direct marketing promises far higher economic returns to farmers. In 1998, the average price received by a Washington state apple grower was $.12 per pound. This compares to a typical selling price of $.69-$1.00 per pound an apple grower received at a farmers market. Although direct marketing provides a greater share of the retail dollar for farms, only a small percentage of the state’s agricultural production follows this route.

Our shoppers want to know where their food comes from and they want a fair exchange with those who provide it. Our members also want small farms to remain in our local landscape, preserving a way of life as a viable aspiration for American youth.

Please support Bill #56-13, the Direct Marketing Assistance Program.

Thank you,
Randy Lee, Acting Co-CEO

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