In reaction to the news of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today released the following statement:
“Small-scale producers bore the brunt of supply chain changes and pandemic-related losses in agriculture, and yet, they received inadequate support from the previous Department of Agriculture,” said Pingree. “Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers will create a more equitable and accessible set of financial supports for local producers in Maine. I’ve been pushing since the earliest days of the pandemic for small farmers to be supported through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. I look forward to working with the Biden administration on the details of this assistance to ensure that it reaches the producers who need it most.”
Funding announced today through USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative includes support that will reach a broader set of producers than previous COVID-19 aid programs. These efforts will include at least $6 billion in assistance for:
- Dairy farmers, through the Dairy Donation Program or other means
- Specialty crops, beginning farmers, local, urban, and organic farms
- Costs of organic certification or to continue or add conservation activities
- Timber harvesters and haulers
- Improving the resilience of the food supply chain, including assistance to meat and poultry processors to facilitate interstate shipment
- Personal protection equipment (PPE) or other measures to protect workers, including for seafood processors
- Developing infrastructure to facilitate food donation and distribution through farm-to-school, restaurants, and other community organizations
- Reducing food waste
The announcement also includes a reopening of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 2 for all eligible producers. Maine farmers who did not apply for a CFAP payment before the application window closed in December will now be eligible to apply starting April 5.
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, 2020 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, 2020, 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, 2020, 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, 2020, 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.
- On February 2, 2021, Pingree joined a bicameral, bipartisan members of the House and Senate in calling on USDA to quickly implement a program to provide grants and forgivable loan support to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels, in line with language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
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.