Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has introduced the Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act, which would provide much-needed additional funding to purchase goods from small and medium farmers and producers who are sitting on surplus crops and provide them to food banks and food assistance programs who are facing unprecedented demands. Representatives Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA-08) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The bill builds on Senator Casey’s work to establish Farm to Food Bank projects in the 2018 Farm Bill to better connect surplus product with the families who need it.
“As farmers and communities across Pennsylvania and the country face the devastating realities of disrupted supply chains and growing food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must do everything we can to bridge the gap between the farmers who have lost key markets and the families struggling to access the food they need,” said Senator Casey. “I am proud to introduce the Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act to support our farmers who are struggling with oversupply due to disrupted markets and our food banks who have been facing heightened demand in recent months. During this time of economic crisis, for farmers and for families, we need to further strengthen these connections and also give our states the funding and authority they need to work with the farmers who have lost key markets as a result of COVID-19.”
“Washington farmers help provide food security to Washington state and the world, but right now, they are struggling with oversupply due to the loss of food service and other markets,” said Representative McMorris Rodgers. “Local leaders are going to know best how to help our struggling farmers and meet an important need at our food banks. We need to direct food purchasing funding to the state so they can be strategic in these efforts, and that’s what this legislation will do.”
“Supply chains are disrupted, and our farmers and food producers are hurting. Small scale farms who supply food to local restaurants, farmers markets, and schools no longer have markets and food products have nowhere to go,” said Representative Schrier. “At the same time, food banks and food assistance programs across the country are having difficulty keeping up with new needs created by the coronavirus pandemic. It makes sense to bridge this divide and put these two together to make sure that we support our family farms while also feeding our communities.”
“This bill addresses two of our highest concerns, outside of protecting from COVID-19: curbing food insecurity and supporting our life-sustaining agriculture industry,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. “To nourish those in need, we must nourish the industry that provides. We’re grateful for Senator Casey’s acknowledgement of the connection between the charitable food system and our farmers.”
“Feeding America applauds Representatives Schrier and McMorris-Rogers, and Senator Casey for proposing creative solutions to help connect excess food from growers and producers with food banks and other nonprofits at the state and local level. This proposal would be a strong addition to the other food purchase programs USDA has announced and help states ensure food from farmers that may not be able to participate in USDA purchases can be connected with communities in need,” said Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer of Feeding America.
“PASA thanks Senator Casey for the introduction of the Farmers Feeding Families-Coronavirus Response Act. Many small family farms that sell direct to consumers and restaurants are struggling to survive. Getting farmers the support they need quickly helps them get food to those who need it quickly,” said Hannah Smith Brubaker, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture.
The Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act would:
- Use federal funding for targeted purchases to buy food from producers who rely on local agricultural markets—such as farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants and farm-to-school programs;
- Provide funding for state agencies and their food-bank partners to directly and immediately replenish their food stocks to meet increased demand; and
- Allow states to support producers who may not normally participate in USDA’s national purchase programs by purchasing surplus perishable foods at risk of going to waste.
State agencies and food banks will be able to make these short-term food purchases through funding from federal commodity support funds.
The Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act is endorsed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Feeding Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Center for Dairy Excellence, Feeding America and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Read more about the Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act here.