American Farmland Trust started taking applications for its Farmer Relief Fund late yesterday with Farmland foods, an AFT partner for the protection of farmland, giving $25,000 and individual donors an additional $35,000 within the first 48 hours. The fund launched Tuesday and will award eligible farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The initial focus will be on farms that sell at farmers markets or to restaurants, caterers, schools, stores, or makers who use farm products. That focus could change over time as the negative impacts of the crisis become more widespread within U.S. agriculture. All monies raised will go directly to farmers.
AFT has focused on these producers, believing them to be the most immediately impacted as “social distancing” policies and the closure of restaurants, schools, farmers markets, and other institutions keep them from selling to their usual customers. Eighty-five percent of these producers are classified as small farms and most are not covered by traditional farm safety nets, nor have they benefited from the recent market facilitation payments.
“There is help on the way. The initial response has been very strong, with our partner Farmland leading the way with a generous donation which we hope will be an inspiration to others,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “It is clear from what we are hearing, that there is need. Applications began coming in immediately, most from small farms that typically sell at farmers markets and to restaurants.”
“Core to our mission at Farmland foods is to provide great food to our friends, families and neighbors. Now more than ever we need to support the many farmers that help bring fresh nutritious food to our tables,” said Erin Thacker, Farmland brand manager. “We did not hesitate when AFT asked for help, committing $25,000 to the Farmer Relief Fund.”
The Farmer Relief Fund program details and application can be found here.
Initially, eligible applicants include small and mid-size direct-market producers. These are defined as producers with annual gross revenue of between $10,000 and $1 million from sales at farmers markets and/or direct sales to restaurants, caterers, schools, stores, or makers who use farm products.
AFT envisions an initial application round extending until April 23, with grants beginning to be made by May 1.