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ACTION ALERT!

Contact Your Members of Congress

- COVID-19 Stimulus for Food Systems

 

It is extremely inspiring and heartening how active and organized the national food movement has been in response to Covid-19—working tirelessly to meet the immediate needs of farmers, fishermen, and eaters in this challenging time and hopefully to build resilience for years to come.  Many groups around the country and many of our allies in Washington have written letters to Congress outlining how stimulus monies should be used, as well as pointing the way towards deep, systemic structural change of our food system.  

 

Below, please find an action alert from our ally the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC). Further talking points can be found in the subsequent letter from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and in this article from Beyond Pesticides.

 

Thank you for your engagement!

From the National Family Farm Coalition: 

The CARES Act negotiations, which passed into law on March 27th with some important, but insufficient, financial support provisions for farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. 

Please contact your members of Congress ASAP.  We're calling on members to continue engaging your elected officials this week with the updated list of policy asks.

 

You can find contact information for your Member of congress here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. The US Capital switchboard is: (202) 224-3121.  

 

We are now in the negotiating round for a 4th stimulus bill, which House Democrats are indicating they would like to have finalized in the next two weeks and be in the $500 billion range (but timelines and funding ranges are quite fluid right now). This next round is an opportunity to secure additional needed funding for family-scale producers, particularly for the fishing sector which was underfunded in the CARES Act and the dairy sector which is in significant crisis. We are also continuing to push (in-part) a number of critical emergency credit provisions to get emergency funds into the right hands as well as systemic policy reforms to address long-standing market concentration and inequities. As always it is an uphill battle and we appreciate your time and support in this time of crisis.  For further talking points, please see the "Covid Stimulus for Food Systems" Letter [sic].

 

All calls into Congressional offices are helpful, but we particularly encourage folks to contact their members in the House as the next bill will likely originate there.

Additional talking points can be found in the below National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Letter to the USDA on Direct Farmer Aid in the CARES Act:


April 9, 2020

The Honorable George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue:

The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious crisis that is having a negative impact on our country’s food system from farm to fork. Social distancing and other necessary response strategies have upended agriculture markets throughout the country and caused direct economic harm to farmers and ranchers. At the same time, farmers, food workers and farmworkers are risking their own health to keep our food system going without adequate protection and provision for their health, safety and financial security. The U.S. Department of Agriculture must step up to mitigate these harms and protect everyone working hard to provide our communities with safe, wholesome food.

Now is the time for USDA to work with urgency and creativity to redress harms, advance equity, and foster resilience in our farm and food system. The funding authorized by Congress in the CARES Act for direct aid to impacted agricultural producers is an important start.

We are pleased that in the CARES Act Congress recognized the unique needs and losses suffered by producers selling into local and regional markets, including farmers markets, restaurants, schools, institutions, and food hubs. The Congressional Research Service estimated local food sales at $11.8 billion in 2017 [1], with nearly 8% of U.S. farms and ranches (159,000 operations) participating [2]. Direct-to-consumer food sales alone in the U.S. totaled $2.8 billion in 2017 [3]. Local and regional food markets are especially critical for beginning farmers, farmers of color, limited-resource farmers, and veteran farmers, who disproportionately utilize these market channels to feed their communities and build diversified farm incomes. Building on a recent report [4], key local and regional food markets are estimated to lose more than $1.02 billion in sales from March to December due to the short and long-term impacts of the pandemic. In addition, many farms are dealing with unexpected expenses just to stay in business, including infrastructure and technology investments related to new delivery models and safety and sanitation improvements made necessary due to COVID-19.

One immediate opportunity is available now in the new $9.5 billion in aid designated by Congress for specialty crop producers, livestock producers (including dairy), and producers that supply local food systems (including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools) - part of $23.5 billion overall in direct aid for producers. We write today to urge you to ensure the following critical outcomes in the equitable disbursement of direct aid provided to producers:

- Aid for Local and Regional Food System (LRFS) producers should be commensurate with their expected losses of more than $1 billion. [1]

- Application for aid should be simple, accessible, and present the lowest barrier to participation possible, including: not requiring the producer to already have an FSA farm number, being made available in appropriate languages for diverse farming communities, and being available through, and supported by, a national call center to ease the burden on local USDA offices that may have limited staff and technical capacity in the following months.

- Aid should be prioritized toward small and midsize producers who most utilize local and regional market channels, with dedicated funds for farmers historically underserved by USDA. [5]

- Aid should be provided directly to farmers, ranchers, and livestock growers (including swine and poultry) rather than integrators or packers and done in a manner that benefits those who bear the greatest risk in production systems and does not contribute to further consolidation and concentration within agriculture sectors.

- Outreach to farmers must be robust with specific efforts to engage and inform farmers who may have limited engagement with USDA including but not limited to very small farmers, limited resource farmers, farmers with limited English proficiency, urban farmers, and farmers of color.

- The USDA Office of the Inspector General should be provided with any material necessary to conduct a robust audit of the implementation of all CARES Act related agricultural provisions.

In addition to the equitable provision of this direct aid, there is much more that USDA can do. USDA should use its existing authorities to continue to expand the flexibilities it offers to program participants, extend deadlines for grant applications, repurpose existing program elements to serve worker safety and other emerging needs, and provide direct aid to help stabilize and support local and regional market operations. It must ensure fair access to capital for struggling farmers, growers, and producers, increase the purchase of foods that have been displaced from school, institution, restaurant, and direct market sales for federal nutrition programs, impose a moratorium on farm foreclosures and the sale of assets in USDA inventory, and redouble efforts to engage with other federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration, to ensure that farmers are aware of the full spectrum of programs and resources for which they are eligible.

We thank you and the dedicated staff of USDA for their efforts during this crisis. We will continue to share the needs and concerns of our producers and communities in the weeks to come. We ask you to live up to the USDA motto of “Do right and feed everyone” - you can do right by providing targeted and urgently needed aid to farmers who have lost market access and are prevented from doing what they do best: feeding everyone. USDA can protect and build on the millions the agency has invested in local and regional food systems in the last decade. Now is the time to implement systems that will serve our society and its food needs for generations to come, including to help navigate future emergencies and strengthen our collective resilience when crises arrive.

Sincerely,

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the undersigned

Northeast Organic Farming Association of NH (NOFA-NH)

84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, NH 03301

(603) 224-5022    info@nofanh.org

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