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Farmers market nutrition program bill ready for Gov. Owens

DENVER – Farmers and low-income mothers and children are dual beneficiaries of a bill sent to the Governor’s desk yesterday, according to Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU).

H.B. 1129, sponsored by Rep. Lois Tochtrop, D-Westminster, and Sen. Deanna Hanna, D-Greenwood Village, passed out of the Senate yesterday and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

“This bill will help both farmers and low-income mothers and children,” said Hanna. The bill creates a set of coupons that pregnant women, mothers and children can redeem for fresh produce at farmers markets across the state. Money from the coupons goes directly into the hands of farmers who sell at the farmers markets. The bill will tie into a federally funded program already in operation in 35 states.

“The benefits of the program are clear,” said John Ellis, who farms near Louisville, Colo. “WIC participants benefit from fresh, wholesome food and the money goes straight into the pockets of family farmers.”

There are now over 60 farmers markets across the state. These markets represent a significant source of income for many farmers in Colorado. This bill broadens the socio-economic participation in the state’s farmers markets and enhances participation in and profitability of farmers markets.

“RMFU is interested in doing whatever is possible for the more traditional commodity producers,” said John Stencel, RMFU president. “We are also interested in creating new markets for agricultural products in the state and we feel this bill does just that.”

The Boulder County Farmers Market already has its own successful coupon program. “We have seen interest from farmers markets around the state for this program,” said Ellis, who is on the board of the Boulder market. “We wanted to move this legislation so other markets could realize the benefits of this program.”