~ Press release issued by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation on April 23
WASHINGTON — With many U.S. food banks struggling to meet increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America have teamed up to offer a solution.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the organizations recommended that the U.S. Department of Agriculture expand its partnership with American farmers to address surging demand. The proposal would allow farmers affected by lost markets to move their products directly to food banks using a USDA-managed voucher program.
The letter outlined the groups’ concern that excess agricultural products are being discarded due to a perceived oversupply, and that food banks are failing to meet a simultaneous increase in demand. The organizations wrote that USDA’s involvement would address both concerns, and that farmers’ added ability to deliver goods directly to food banks would create a shorter supply chain.
The proposed voucher program also would help farmers recoup production and distribution costs for goods distributed to U.S. food banks.
“Farmers hope this effort helps provide more food to the increasing number of struggling families throughout the country,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.
“The program would also help farmers, who are struggling themselves, at least recover some of what they put into planting and harvesting,” he explained. “Without restaurants, hotels and other outlets to sell their produce to, farmers in many cases can’t afford to pick their fruits or pull their vegetables from the ground.”
U.S. farmers previously received a boost through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which was announced April 16. The program will provide $19 billion in relief to farmers and agribusinesses.
Producers who have been impacted by COVID-19 will receive $16 billion in direct support, and USDA is partnering with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in produce, dairy and meat. The goods will be distributed to food banks and other nonprofit organizations.
“The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers,” Perdue said. “This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”