McMorris Rodgers, Schrier Introduce Legislation Aimed At Helping Farmers, Families During COVID-19

Late last week, Washington Congresswomen Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Kim Schrier introduced legislation they say will provide additional funding to purchase products from small and medium sized farms and get those products to food banks in need. The two said the Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act, also known as House Resolution 6725, will help producers who are sitting on surplus crops with no destination thanks to disruptions to the food supply system.

Under the bipartisan legislation, federal funding would be used for targeted purchases replenishing food bank demand and allow states to support producers who may not normally participate in USDA food assistance programs.

Both lawmakers say the hope is to greatly reduce the amount of food going to waste.

 “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.”

Pennsylvania democrat Bob Casey will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act will:

  • 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
  • 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

“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. 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,” said Senator Casey.

State agencies and food banks will be able to make these short-term food purchases through funding from federal commodity support funds.

Support for the Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act

Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer, Feeding America:

“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.”

Thomas Reynolds, CEO, Northwest Harvest:

“Since 1967, Northwest Harvest has prioritized working with local producers to secure food for our neighbors in need. COVID-19 has intensified the need for that partnership in order to get nutritious food quickly and safely out of our farm fields and onto the tables of hungry households. We urge Congress to support the Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act which enhances state agencies to purchase locally grown food for food banks. This will help struggling families have nutritious food while supporting the businesses of our struggling family farms.”

Mike LaPlant, President, Washington state Farm Bureau:

“In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis it became apparent existing USDA programs were not designed to directly address the very real problem food banks and Washington farmers were facing. This legislation represents creative `outside of the box’ thinking that will provide healthy, locally grown food for state food banks and a new market for our farmers who were growing food for now-closed restaurants. It’s a win-win.”

Chris Voigt, Executive Director, Washington State Potato Commission:

“The potato growers of Washington State support this effort.  Allowing individual states to make strategic food purchases from farmers is the best way to quickly resupply distribution chains during these times of uncertainty.” 

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

“The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically disrupted daily life throughout the country, leaving millions struggling to feed themselves and their families. At the same time, farmers and ranchers who normally sell to restaurants, institutions, schools and through farmers markets have seen their markets disappear overnight resulting in fruits and vegetables left to rot in fields and orchards. The national emergency food procurement and distribution systems have been too slow to respond to the unprecedented crisis leaving farmers unable to feed families who are in great need. The Farmers Feeding Families Act is an innovative, local approach that empowers state governments to partner directly with small farmers and grassroots organizations to help farmers support families within their own communities and build a more resilient, regional food system.”

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