Although the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, farming communities have come so far since the beginning. As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic brought economic hardship to rural communities and food banks struggled to keep up with increased demand, state and county Farm Bureaus donated millions of dollars and pounds of food to help those in need of assistance.
Through its network of state and county Farm Bureaus across the country, Farm Bureau responded to the call, giving $5.4 million and 1.4 million pounds of food to local food banks, food pantries, and pandemic relief programs.
“Farm Bureau has always stepped up to help our communities, especially in times of disaster and crisis, and this was no exception,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “Throughout the pandemic, Farm Bureau has been there, supporting farmers and ranchers, giving back to communities, providing assurance that our food supply is strong and ensuring America’s pantries are stocked. I’m so proud of the countless acts of kindness and compassion by our Farm Bureau family who gave their time and resources to make life a little better for their neighbors.”
Farm Bureau donations came in all shapes and sizes, ranging from an individual farm donating a dozen pounds of cheese to county Farm Bureaus donating hundreds of dollars or pounds of food to state Farm Bureaus contributing six-figure monetary donations.
State and county Farm Bureaus reached out to serve their local communities in many ways beyond monetary and food donations. Staff and volunteers gave thousands of hours of time, coordinating logistics for food distribution programs, delivering groceries, donating and distributing thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer, distributing millions of masks and other protective equipment, and donating and delivering meals to seniors and healthcare workers. Farm Bureaus also organized community fundraisers for relief efforts, including raising money to donate to healthcare workers affected by COVID-19.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 when consumers began to see empty grocery store shelves, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s #StillFarming social media campaign built public confidence in farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to produce food and reassured consumers of the strength of the U.S. food supply. Building on this initiative, AFBF launched a #StillFarming line of merchandise, with half of the proceeds benefiting Feeding America and half benefiting the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, to give back to the communities that trusted farmers to feed their families throughout this difficult time.
All of this work was accomplished as Farm Bureaus across the country also focused intently on ensuring farmers and ranchers had the support and resources they needed to continue operating and to ensure the integrity of the food supply chain.
At the national level, this included rapid action to ensure farm employees were deemed essential; modifications to immigration rules to follow safety protocols while ensuring access to farm employees; many consultations with members of Congress, the administration, and federal agencies to deliver two Coronavirus Food Assistance Programs and other aid totaling $36 billion to offset pandemic-related losses; inclusion of agriculture in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program; and advocating for action to assist meat processing plants in safely operating to avoid a further crisis for livestock producers and to protect the meat supply for U.S. consumers.