American Farmland Trust Policy Director Tim Fink extends thanks to organizations such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, and local agriculture champions in Congress for their efficient work and proposed policy solutions.
Fink said, “American Farmland Trust echoes the urgent call to include farmers and ranchers engaged in direct sales through farmers markets or to schools and restaurants in the stimulus package. ”
These producers, who accounted for $2.8 billion in total sales in 2017, are uniquely hurt by social distancing policies that are preventing them from reaching their usual markets. This study shared with Congress estimates that local and regional food systems could lose up to $1.3 billion between March and May of this year. Some 85 percent of these producers are classified as small farms, and most are not covered by the traditional farm safety net, nor have they benefitted from the recent market facilitation payments.
Congress can help these farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID-19 by: ensuring that those who sell their products directly to schools, through farmers markets or other local and regional markets are also included in any relief plan; considering suspension of Farm Service Agency loan payments and providing zero-interest loans to tide these producers until conditions improve; and extending relevant USDA program deadlines to offer additional flexibilities to producers.
These steps likely represent just the beginning of what will be needed as farmers move ahead. During this difficult time, American Farmland Trust is committed to ensuring agricultural viability, and will be announcing additional ways to support this important community in the coming days.
Fink said, “Today, AFT is sharing its support for immediate stimulus action with Congress and asking our members to contact their representatives to drive swift action. ”