Farm Bureau, Feeding America ask USDA for voucher system
The American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America, the national network of food banks, today asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to help the nation’s farmers and the hungry by instituting a voucher system.
“As you are aware, food banks are under tremendous pressure to meet the skyrocketing demand,” wrote Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot.
“Press reports underscore the massive surge in need, with some food banks seeing as much as 100% increases in demand. In some states, the National Guard has been called upon to help package goods for distribution to customers.”
“At the same time, however, we are seeing literally tons of agricultural goods being discarded because of the shutdown of so much of the economy. Paradoxically, we are seeing a simultaneous surge in demand at a moment when many farmers are being told there is an oversupply of their product. The unfortunate consequences include public panic about an adequate food supply and plunging prices for farm produce.”
“We are writing you to ask USDA to expand on your partnership with us in executing the solution. The department has the opportunity to help address both unfortunate consequences described above through a voucher program that would deepen the relationships between farmers and food banks, allowing them to work directly with one another instead of relying upon third parties and what is sometimes a longer pathway to get food from farms to food bank shelves. We recognize that regulatory flexibility also may be required to ensure rapid action, and we ask you to consider it within the confines of ensuring the safety of the food being supplied.”
Duvall and Babineaux-Fontenot did not provide details on how the voucher system would work, but in a news release Farm Bureau said “this demand can be met by redirecting supply from farmers and ranchers who have lost other markets, such as restaurants and tourism businesses due to closures and stay-at-home orders, by implementing a USDA-run voucher system.”
“This plan would allow farmers and ranchers to work directly with food banks to get farm-fresh products quickly to families in need, while also preventing food waste and helping farmers recoup some of their production costs at a time when they are fighting to hold on.”
A Farm Bureau spokesman added in an email, “The food banks would get the vouchers which they would use to pay farmers for produce to cover the cost of getting it out of the fields and to the food banks. That was one suggestion we made, we are open to working with USDA on whatever method they see fit to alleviate the problem.”
On Friday, The New York Times reported on the challenges facing food banks in New York City, with increased demand and lower supplies.
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