JEFFERSON CITY — Spurring the creation of urban farms in low-income areas was the focus of the House Special Committee on Urban Issues on Wednesday evening.
House Bill 1586 establishes a 50% tax credit on the cost of creating an urban farm in a food desert. A food desert is an area with a lack of affordable and nutritious food, typically low-income areas. The bill allows for a total of $100,000 to be claimed a year, and testifying witnesses made clear that, while they felt this would be a step in the right direction, it was only a beginning.
Adam Saunders, development director of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, shared ideas such as making the discussed minimum farm size of half-acre even smaller, suggesting the average lot size of an applicant’s city. He also noted that the maximum size of each tax credit, $1,000, is too small to realistically start a farm, using his center’s 1.3-acre operation as an example.
“How many thousands of dollars did it take to start your business? More than $2,000, right?” Saunders asked rhetorically. “We spent tens of thousands of dollars on establishing our urban farm.”
Rep. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City, sponsor of the bill, also suggested increasing the numbers.
“I would like to see a cap of $2 million, and you can get up to a $10,000 credit per investment,” she said.
William Coe, CEO and director of the Green Acres Urban Farm and Research Project, described the importance of getting kids interested in agriculture. His farm, which raises fish while using the waste to fertilize plants, is partnered with the Kansas City School District and aims to educate a younger generation on how to eat sustainably at low-cost in areas where residents struggle just to get by.
“We have Missouri statistics that one out of four children go to school hungry,” he said. “That’s the whole spirit behind urban farming, it’s taking advantage of what you already have — reusing, repurposing and revitalizing.”
“It’s about introducing kids to the fact — especially kids of color — that agriculture is inherent to African American people,” Washington said. “We came here as slaves and we were farming.”
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