We all are experiencing the most troublesome economic times of our lives. Everyone in all walks of life is forced to tighten budgets and reduce spending. It is reasonable to expect budgets for state government agencies providing services to be experiencing the same.
The 2010 budget for the State of Alabama Farmers Market Authority (FMA) was so drastically cut that programs like the extremely popular and successful statewide public awareness campaign, Buy Fresh, Buy Local, will be eliminated.
In addition, due to 2010 federal budget cuts, the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WFMNP) was reduced by approximately 75 percent. This means 20,000 fewer women and children will receive assistance this year versus 2009. For the farming community, it equates to a reduction of $400,000 in small farmers’ sales.
In the Governor’s 2011 proposed budget, all but a handful of state agencies have been cut yet again, some more than others, with FMA being one of the largest in percentage reductions. Unfortunately, that means that again there will not be any funds available for the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign.
The Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign was designed to increase consumption of fresh, locally-produced food and to support Alabama farmers. The campaign has become an extremely valuable marketing tool for Alabama farmers and the nostalgic appearance of the campaign’s logo is easily recognizable and popular with consumers. Since the inception of the campaign in 2004, it has had an extremely favorable impact on local farmers markets, u-pick operations and roadside stands in Alabama.
History shows us that during the Great Depression the companies who continued to advertise their products, despite the decline in the economy, made huge strides in sales and customer loyalty. Because so many companies had to cut spending during that era, advertising budgets were largely eliminated. As a result, those companies dropped out of public sight because of short-sighted decisions made about spending money to keep a high profile. The 2011 proposed budget cuts FMA is facing are once again going to have a huge negative impact on Alabama farmers as well as the consumers who prefer to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from these local farmers.
The demand for Buy Fresh, Buy Local is right now at an all-time high. If history repeats itself, chances are the demand for locally-grown produce will fade without a strong advertising campaign. These types of programs are essential to the existence of our local farming community.
WE NEED YOUR HELP! FMA pledges to do everything possible to ensure programs like Buy Fresh, Buy Local continue. If this campaign has had a favorable impact on your local business, farming operation or shopping habits for healthy fruits and vegetables for your family’s meals, we ask you to contact your local State Representative and Senator. Please ask these key people to restore FMA’s funding to the ‘2009’ appropriation level. Without YOUR help, the strides that have been made with the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign may be lost. Please help us to ensure this does not happen to your local community.
Don Wambles is the director for the State of Alabama Farmers Market Authority.