Today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) cosponsored the Local and Regional Farmer and Market Support Act, also known as the Local Farmer Act, introduced by Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, (D-N.C.). The Local Farmer Act would help the farmers, farms, and families hardest hit by COVID-19 by targeting aid directly to local and regional food producers and markets as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s no secret that the pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for Maine’s farmers. Supply chains have shifted at a moment’s notice, not to mention day-to-day challenges with public health precautions and the additional stress of climate change,” said Pingree. “We are far overdue for the federal government to step up and support those who work around the clock to put food on our tables. That’s why I’m proud to support the Local Farmer Act, which would target pandemic aid directly to local and regional producers and markets to make sure they can survive through this pandemic, with a specific nod to farmers of color and minority-owned markets among those hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Specifically, the Local Farmer Act would:
- Create an alternative coronavirus relief payment program for farmers that sell in local and regional markets based on their historic revenue, rather than price loss;
- Provide emergency response grants for farmers markers and local food enterprises implement public health protections and coronavirus-smart marketing practices;
- Provide emergency response grants to direct marketing farmers to help them respond to shifting markets and adopt new socially-distant practices and sales models;
- Provide more equitable distribution of relief funds so that farmers of color and small farms get the funds they need to survive; and
- Provide robust outreach and technical assistance to BIPOC farmers and ranchers.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pingree has been an outspoken advocate for the nation’s small to midsize farms to receive targeted economic relief:
- On March 16, Pingree wrote to Speaker Pelosi detailing the impact of COVID-19 on local and regional markets for farmers and urging the Speaker to provide emergency disaster payments to farmers selling fresh, local, and minimally processed foods in community markets.
- On April 3, Pingree and 67 bipartisan members of Congress wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and urged him to provide swift relief for local food producers whose markets have been affected due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- On July 13, Pingree and Congressman Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) wrote to USDA asking for modifications in the direct payment program under CFAP to make it work better for smaller, more diversified farms, including a mechanism to receive payments based on total farm revenue loss, flexibility on documentation that farmers must provide, and extending eligibility to additional commodities. USDA incorporated several of these suggestions in the second round of CFAP in September.
- On August 4, Pingree joined by Congresswomen Annie Kuster (D-New Hampshire), Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and 19 House colleagues in writing to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue demanding oversight of the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and why an infinitesimal amount of this aid has reached small farms and farmers of color.
Pingree is an organic farmer and a recognized national policy leader on sustainable farming and local agricultural markets. She is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.