NSAC, Farmers Market Coalition call for aid

-The Hagstrom Report

A report released today by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said that key local and regional markets (i.e., farmers markets, farm to school, food hubs serving other institutions, and restaurants) expect to see up to a $688.7 million decline in sales leading to a payroll decline of up to $103.3 million, and a total loss to the economy of up to $1.32 billion from March to May 2020.

“NSAC continues to drive home the point on (Capitol]) Hill that the stimulus plan needs to include measures targeted to small and medium-size farms, new and beginning farmers, and farms that rely on direct consumer sales during this crisis,” said Ferd Hoefner, a senior strategic adviser to NSAC.

“Without immediate mitigation, we may lose many small, socially disadvantaged, and beginning farms and the important markets they serve,” said the group of economists who wrote the report.

The economists had the following policy recommendations:

Explicitly include local food and farm businesses in small businesses support programs:

— Declare local farm and food assets as key community assets.

— Require emergency food assistance dollars flowing to communities to support local farm and food businesses.

— Explicitly integrate local farm and food business into all small business, workforce and emergency payments/loan programs.

Expand incentives for small food and farm businesses to move online:

— Aggressively encourage farmers to integrate online ordering/sales platforms, as increasingly states (e.g., Connecticut) are requiring practices that limit customer interaction.

Accelerate waivers and expand flexibility for current USDA programs:

— Leverage congressional and executive authority to waive limitations on the reach of feeding programs’ ability to purchase food from local and regional suppliers.

— Relax expenditure limitations so that current USDA award recipients can innovate and rapidly respond to community needs. (e.g., Michigan reported that due to lost sales at schools, their Michigan Farm to Freezer program is shifting to freeze items for other markets.)

— Expand and add flexibility to the LAMP and Value-Added Producer Grant Programs so future awards incentivize innovations that enhance rapid responses to future supply disruptions.”

The Farmers Market Coalition on Tuesday said Congress should:

▪ Direct USDA to develop an emergency disaster payment to small and beginning farmers selling fresh and minimally processed food through direct marketing channels such as farmers markets that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

▪ Introduce administrative flexibility for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Value Added Producer Grant program, and Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program by removing the matching funds requirements from both programs, extending deadlines, and expediting review and approval of projects.

▪ Encourage state agencies participating in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) to make bulk purchases for 2020, and make local produce accessible to WIC-Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) participants by allowing state agencies to purchase FMNP farmers’ produce in bulk.

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