A group of 27 U.S. senators wrote USDA on Thursday asking the department to target COVID-19 relief provisions to reach local farmers in the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act specifically provides direct assistance to local food producers, USDA has not announced specific details on how this relief will be targeted to local farmers, the senators wrote Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“While USDA mentioned that the direct producer assistance program would be made available to producers of all sizes — including local producers, as required by the CARES Act — we are disappointed that there were no specific details on how this assistance will be tailored to the unique challenges that local producers face, or how the department will conduct outreach to beginning and underserved farmers,” the senators wrote.
The senators specifically urged USDA to support local farmers by:
-Adjusting the CFAP payment calculations to better reflect the business models of local producers;
-Amending the covered time period to better reflect when local producers experienced losses; and
-Developing a robust and inclusive outreach plan to ensure all local food producers — including those with limited internet access and those for whom English is not their first language — are aware of the benefits available to them under the CFAP.
USDA unveiled a $16 billion package earlier in April, but has not provided further details on the aid package such as when producers could begin to sign up for aid.AFT Sends Out First Round of $1,000 Checks to Farmers
The American Farmland Trust said Thursday it has sent out $1,000 checks to 1,000 farmers as part of its COVID-19 relief fund, and is raising more money for a second round. The group highlighted, "Direct-to-consumer farmers have been severely impacted by “social distancing” policies and closures that have kept them from selling to their usual customers and necessitated they make dramatic shifts in the way to they do business to stay afloat. With break downs in the broader systems, we’ve seen these farmers step in to bring eggs, milk, meat and fresh produce to consumers. But their resources are limited, and often small infusions of cash can make a big difference."
John Piotti, AFT's president and CEO, added, "We believe that farmers who sell direct to consumers were most immediately impacted when the pandemic set it, with no federal safety net in place. There’s no question that our farmers and ranchers are struggling, no matter what size operation or what they produce. Challenges with transportation, labor shortages and even COVID-19 among the processing workforce has disrupted Americans’ ability to put food on their tables, especially those that have been or are now food insecure."
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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