COVID-19 Funding Will Assist with Farm and Food System Response and Recovery
February 9th, 2021, Washington, DC — Today, the House of Representatives released the Agriculture and Nutrition title of the FY2021 Budget Reconciliation bill, intended to address ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would help realize much of the $1.9 trillion dollar response plan put forward by the Biden-Harris Administration. The range of spending in this bill—and in the Senate version expected to be released soon—is very broad, including direct payments to individuals, enhanced SNAP benefits, extended unemployment insurance, protections for some renters, as well as a number of provisions related to farm and food systems summarized below.
Remarks from Eric Deeble, Policy Director: “It is clear from the House bill that Congress intends to use the reconciliation process to the fullest. The bill also sends a very strong signal to the new Administration to double down on efforts to address racial inequities within the food and farm system.”
“The House has provided additional funding to buy more farm products directly from farmers and to bolster key elements of the food supply chain during this critical period. Investments in reducing the costs necessary to help small plants and processors run at full capacity, making sure that farmers markets are up and running, and that farmers, processors, and market operators have resources to adapt to new market conditions and purchase PPE for themselves and their staff will ensure that farmers, ranchers, fishers, and other producers can get their goods to market and serve people in their community who continue to struggle.”
Key provisions of the Agriculture and Nutrition Title include:
- Purchase of Agriculture Commodities and Food Assistance – A portion of $4 billion in total funding to purchase agricultural commodities from farmers and to support their delivery to families through non-profits, emergency feeding organizations, and restaurants. To maximize the impact of this investment, USDA should incorporate the recommendations contained in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program report recently published by NSAC and the Harvard Food Law Policy Clinic.
- Strengthening Supply Chains – A portion of $4 billion in total funding to strengthen supply chains and build further resilience in response to the pandemic. That includes providing financial assistance for equipment and supplies for food processors, farmers markets and similar entities to respond to the pandemic and protect workers in a manner similar to Rep Kim Schrier’s (D-WA-8) Food and Farm Emergency Assistance Act and The Food Supply Protection Act, introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
- Supporting Small Processors – Financial assistance in the form of $100 million and overtime USDA fee relief that will help ensure processing capacity for small meat processing plants that have been at maximum capacity during the pandemic. NSAC thanks Representative Angie Craig (D-MN-2) and Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD-AL), and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) for leading efforts to address costly USDA fees in their Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief COVID-19 Act.
- SNAP Benefits – Extension of the 15% increase in the maximum SNAP benefit included in the December COVID response package from June 30, 2021 to September 30, 2021.
- Online SNAP Expansion – Provides $25 million to USDA to support the expansion of online SNAP through investments in technology modernization and increased technical assistance. This is similar to the Expanding SNAP Options Act that was introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep Robin Kelly (D-IL-2) last year.
- Direct Aid for Black, Indigenous, and Farmers of Color – Dedicated funding to provide debt relief to Black, Indigenous, and farmers of color, as well as over $1 billion to improve land access, address heirs property issues, establish an equity commission, and create a legal center to provide legal advice and resources to BIPOC farmers. We applaud Chairman David Scott (D-GA-13) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2) for their leadership in the House on these issues as well as Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) who introduced similar proposals in the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act.
CAFF is proud member of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more: https://sustainableagriculture.net/