Dear Chairman Shelby, Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Leahy and Ranking Member Granger:
As Congress advances the fiscal year 2021 (FY21) appropriations legislation, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) encourages you to support programs that enhance farmers, ranchers, and their rural communities and ensure a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply. Furthermore, NASDA supports additional funds to alleviate unprecedented strains COVID-19 has placed on our food supply system. NASDA represents the Commissioners, Secretaries, and Directors of agriculture in all fifty states and four territories. NASDA members are co-regulators with the federal government and strong advocates for American agriculture. For FY21, we ask you to prioritize the below programs and provide more resources to guard against an uneven COVID-19 recovery that harms our food system and rural America. An addendum is attached, providing a more detailed breakout of the requests.
1. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): Produce, Animal Food, Produce Safety Alliance, Food Safety Outreach Program
NASDA members are at the forefront of implementing FSMA and funding these programs will allow NASDA to continue building state regulatory programs required by FSMA and educate and train the farm and food sectors on compliance. The education, outreach, and training provided by state programs, FSOP and PSA, are critical in meeting FSMA’s mandate and ensuring a safe food supply, especially as the country recovers from the global pandemic.
2. Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) – $10 million, full funding
Funding for FRSAN will continue efforts enabled by FY19 and FY20 appropriations to scale assistance programs and create trainings and partnerships to serve rural Americans—60% of whom live in areas with mental health professional shortages. These communities are the foundation to America’s food supply. Therefore, it’s imperative to support our farmers and ranchers as they navigate through the financial impacts of COVID 19.
3. National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) – $30 million, full funding
NAHLN funding is critical for large-scale animal-disease early warning and outbreak response. NASDA members, who regulate and oversee animal health in the states, are the first line of defense against animal disease outbreaks and rely on NALHN labs to track disease progression and perform tests on thousands of diagnostic samples. Federal funding for the NAHLN will expand surveillance and surge capacity to diagnose diseases and ramp up during emergency situations. The NAHLN labs provide additional support for COVID 19 testing. As the Nation faces a global pandemic, it is important these labs get additional funding to help support testing efforts and defense against animal disease outbreaks.
4. State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) – Categorical Grant
STAG provides states with funding to implement the co-regulatory framework of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Increased funds will allow states to meet their increasing workload regarding drift complaints and the implementation of new federal regulations.
Additional Funding Opportunities to Support Efforts of State Departments of Agriculture to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
As the COVID-19 response continues, we urge Congress to expand the funding capacity to state departments of agriculture to work in partnership with food producers, processors and consumers in their local communities to ensure regional and local food supply issues needs are met. More resources are needed to guard against an uneven COVID-19 recovery that harms our food system and rural communities throughout America. State departments of agriculture have proven their ability to effectively respond to the unique needs of the food and agriculture sector, and rural communities. Additional support for the priorities discussed below will provide state departments of agriculture with the flexibility to respond to the variable, and largely still unknown, food supply issues in their state.
Keeping Workers & Food Safe: Enhance access to Personal Protective Equipment and COVID-19 testing for food and agricultural workers. Maintain sufficient funding for appropriate staffing levels and operational functions for critical food safety, and animal and plant health functions carried out by states including, but not limited to: food safety inspections, plant pest surveys, laboratory diagnoses, and animal health inspections.
Local & Regional Food Systems: Provide funding for relief and recovery programs with the specific needs of small/micro agricultural producers in mind. Support market development efforts to sustain and expand sales opportunities for small producers. Ensure charitable food organizations have access to agricultural products to meet community needs.
Expansion of Food Processing and Distribution: Invest in local processing infrastructure. Defray transportation costs of commodities that must be re-routed to other processing or distribution facilities. Provide incentives to fund capital equipment investments, such as automated systems, or conversion of product lines for new marketing outlets (e.g., wholesale packaging to retail packaging).
Support for Rural Recovery Efforts: Collaborate with extension and other state agencies to provide economic assistance to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Develop tools to address stress among farmers and rural residents, and farmer mental health services to rural communities. Fund agriculture workforce development and job creation workshops.
NASDA asks that you give our requests careful consideration as you work to fund the nation’s agricultural policy priorities and COVID 19 economic relief efforts in the fiscal year 2021. We appreciate the committee’s continued investments.
Barbara P. Glenn, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer