Delgado Leads 37 Members in Urging Congressional Leaders to Include Small Farmers in Future COVID-19 Relief

March 20, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) sent a letter yesterday to House and Senate leaders urging that any future COVID-19 relief package include special disaster assistance measures for small and midsize farmers who are already experiencing severe market disruptions. Smaller farms, which make up 96% of the nearly 5,000 farms in NY-19, in the midst of an already challenging farm economy must now face labor shortages and the upending of local and regional food systems amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter begins by articulating the severe economic disruption experienced by small farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the headwinds facing small and family farmers across the nation. “As both chambers begin work on additional stimulus measures to mitigate the severe economic disruption caused by COVID-19, we urge you to keep in mind the perilous position of small- and medium-sized farms—many of whom are already struggling during a prolonged downturn in the farm economy. These producers may soon face unprecedented disruptions to market access as direct to consumer sales slow with the closure of farmers markets and schools. What’s more, they won’t have the support of conventional farm safety net programs such as commodity support initiatives and crop insurance during market restrictions.”

The letter also specifically highlights the need to support these smaller farms through disaster payments to farmers impacted by disruptions to local and regional food systems. Rep. Delgado’s letter suggests that disaster payments could be used to incentivize farmers and supply chain participants including processors and local food hubs to donate displaced products to the emergency food system.

Letter signers include Reps. Antonio Delgado, Thomas Suozzi, Ed Case, Chellie Pingree, Peter DeFazio, Tom O'Halleran, Ann Mclane Kuster, David Scott, Emanuel Cleaver, Cedric Richmond, Darren Soto, Suzanne Bonamici, Andy Levin, TJ Cox, Mark Pocan, Sean Patrick Maloney, Marcia Fudge, Paul Tonko, James P. McGovern, Jahana Hayes, Salud Carbajal, Diana DeGette, Joe Courtney, Andy Kim, Ann Kirkpatrick, Peter Welch, Hank Johnson, Marcy Kaptur, Jennifer Wexton, Bill Foster, Adriano Espaillat, Adam Smith, Ted Lieu, Susan DelBene, Jimmy Panetta, Brad Schneider, and Abigail Spanberger.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

 

March 19, 2020

 

 

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi                                      The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

Speaker                                                                       Republican Leader

United States House of Representatives                     United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515                                              Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                                The Honorable Charles Schumer

Majority Leader                                                          Minority Leader

United States Senate                                                   United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer,

In this challenging and uncertain time, we trust that you will remain vigilant in ensuring that federal, state, and local authorities have the resources they need to combat the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As both chambers begin work on additional stimulus measures to mitigate the severe economic disruption caused by COVID-19, we urge you to keep in mind the perilous position of small- and medium-sized farms—many of whom are already struggling during a prolonged downturn in the farm economy. These producers may soon face unprecedented disruptions to market access as direct to consumer sales slow with the closure of farmers markets and schools. What’s more, they won’t have the support of conventional farm safety net programs such as commodity support initiatives and crop insurance during market restrictions.

With these concerns in mind, we recommend the following be included as part of any stimulus package passed by Congress to respond to the spread of COVID-19:

  • Farm-to-School Markets: Direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (62 Stat.1070; 15 U.S.C. 714) related to income stabilization to develop an emergency disaster payment for small and beginning farmers selling fresh and minimally processed food to local and regional schools who have lost markets due to school closures precipitated by the COVID-19 outbreak. Such disaster assistance payments should be available to both producers that market to schools directly or through intermediaries such as food hubs. Additional payments could also be provided to farmers donating products displaced from these school and institutional markets to the emergency food system.
  • Farmers Markets: Direct the USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (62 Stat.1070; 15 U.S.C. 714) related to income stabilization to develop an emergency disaster payment to small and beginning farmers selling fresh and minimally processed food through direct marketing channels such as farmers markets that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Disaster payments could be provided as a reimbursement for donating products displaced from farmers markets to the emergency food system. Recognizing the infrastructure to facilitate payments to these farmers and collect donated goods is limited, the USDA should be directed to coordinate with existing farmers market organizations and operators to ensure that financial support is available to all participating producers and to facilitate the collection of donated products to the emergency food system.
  • Local Processing of Excess Product: Direct the USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (62 Stat.1070; 15 U.S.C. 714) related to income stabilization and commodity distribution to develop an emergency disaster payment to small food hubs and similar processing and intermediary entities to facilitate the processing and storage of excess product displaced from local and regional markets, such as farmers markets and schools. The capacity of the emergency food system to accommodate large quantities of produce may be limited and will require additional support to ensure that donated products can be processed, stored, and distributed to those communities most in need.

We appreciate your attention to this urgent matter and stand ready to work with you in order to accomplish these goals. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices if we can answer any questions.

 

                                                            Sincerely,

 

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