The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and more than 750 farm and food system organizations from across the country joined their voices in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue calling on the USDA to work with urgency and creativity to provide direct aid to agricultural producers in a manner that redresses economic harm, advances equity, and fosters resilience in our farm and food system.
The letter stresses the importance of providing direct payments to producers that have seen local and regional markets — from loyal customers at farmers markets to schools and institutions, restaurants, and food hubs — transformed, and in many cases completely eliminated, by the coronavirus pandemic.
Eric Deeble, Policy Director for NSAC said, “Congress acted quickly to approve more than $23.5 billion in the CARES Act to support farmers who are reeling from the pandemic — and in doing so they wisely provided dedicated funding and clearly identified farmers who rely on direct markets as a unique group that needs targeted relief. Many farmers are struggling now, and all deserve aid, but none have been more affected than those that have seen their local and regional markets evaporate overnight. The important tools to keep people safe and limit the harm of this pandemic — social distancing, the closure of schools, institutions, and restaurants, and ensuring that food system workers stay safe — are an enormous challenge for farmers that sell into local and regional markets. Even those farmers that have the good fortune to live in a state where some markets continue to operate, have incurred significant costs to modify how they deliver their farm goods and to improve safety measures for themselves, their employees, and for their customers.”
“This letter to the Secretary notes that farmers that rely on local and regional direct markets will lose more than $1 billion this year, not including the additional costs they incur to adapt to disrupted markets. But it goes further and makes a series of recommendations to help USDA do the hard work of structuring a simple, accessible payment program that supports farmers that have been left out of previous assistance programs and guidelines for outreach to make certain that every farmer who needs aid gets the help they deserve. We hope that the Secretary will recognize the genuine concern of the more than 750 organizations that have signed this letter, provide targeted, urgently needed aid to farmers who have lost market access, and protect the nation’s investments to build more resilient local and regional food systems.”
The letter in its entirety and a full list of signing organizations are available online at this link.
In a Facebook post on Thursday night, President Donald J. Trump announced his direction to Secretary Sonny Perdue to expedite help to farmers, especially smaller farmers who have been hit the hardest due to restaurants and farmers markets closing.
NSAC released a statement on COVID-19 on March 19, highlighting the impacts of the pandemic on the food and farm system. The statement includes policy recommendations that they hope Congress will consider as further aid efforts move forward