Does the U.S. Farm Bill Help Farmers' Markets Feed the Poor?

Resource System
Terrestrial land and associated watershed
Resource Units
Agricultural spaces

Food justice advocates increasingly turn to farmers' markets to alleviate poor nutrition among underserved communities in the United States. In addition, farmers markets serve to create new farms and food businesses, create activity in downtowns and neighborhoods, and offer a local and distributed alternative to an increasingly concentrated and vulnerable food and grocery distribution system. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008 Farm Bill recognizes the importance of farmers' markets for the poor, and provides support through three programs. However, closer, cross-scale analysis finds that Farm Bill programs fail to buffer the risk and expense of market siting in low-income neighborhoods. As a result, farmers' markets rely on, and cater to, upper and middle income customers for financial sustainability. Critical components of a class- and race-sensitive market are compromised. We examine the Phoenix Metropolitan Area as a microcosm of federal funding dynamics: affluent communities have federally funded markets, while many communities in food deserts do not. To rectify the inadequacy and perverse incentives of the Farm Bill programs, we recommend changes to the budget and resource allocation programs.