News Article – 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to trudge on, America’s food supply chain is being put to the test and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) members are rising to the challenge. The closure of restaurants, hotels and schools has caused a precipitous drop in food and beverage demand. Meanwhile, a surge in grocery purchases has left many consumers facing empty shelves when they visit the store. A recent figure from the American Farm Bureau Federation illustrates that while expenditures at grocery stores has risen by 27% to $73 billion, food service establishments are experiencing a 25% decline – the largest year-over-year decline in our history.

The consequences of these massive food supply changes are being felt across the country. Many dairy farmers have been forced to dump milk after watching their typical food service marketing channels run dry, produce has been left unharvested in southern states due to reduced institutional demand, and meat processing facilities are closing in some states to protect employee health. At the same time, many food distribution centers across the United States are being affected as they compete with grocery retail chains to procure food to distribute to those in need.

In the face of these challenges, state departments of agriculture are directly answering American’s needs by developing creative solutions to market and distribute food through safe, efficient, and innovative approaches.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection joined forces with the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Hunger Task Force to launch the “Million Dollar Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Partnership.” Through the program, dairy farmers will be paid for supplying milk to a dairy co-op which is supplying milk for free to local food banks and pantries.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried constructed the Florida Farm to You commodities list,webpage, a move that aims to connect Florida producers with consumers and businesses to purchase Florida products.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) announced the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service recently unveiled a “Seed to Supper” program for New Mexicans who are interested in beginning gardening at home. The program provides free seeds and gardening guidance both online, and through a paper booklet. The program purpose is to supply New Mexico’s family’s access to healthy foods, as well as an educational opportunity for families across the state.

Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipsonencouraging Mississippi’s consumers to prioritize local farmers markets in their grocery runs. The MDAC compiled a list of farmers markets, hours of operations, and unique methods for purchasing in the wake of the current pandemic, including online pre-order and curbside pick-up. Additionally, through the existing Genuine MS food marketing program, several farms are offering direct food boxes to consumers for pick-up through the online portal.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been continuously updating the state’s agricultural sector on relief programs and resources during the pandemic, with agriculture recognized by the governor as the states top industry. In addition, MDA is working to connect Marylanders with farmers and seafood producers in the state and encouraging the purchase of local products. As some restaurants in the state continue to purchase food and grant carry-out orders, MDA in partnership with other state agencies has announced the “Keep Calm and Carry Out” social media campaign, a simple slogan to support the vitality of restaurants, and the producers that supply them.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has encouraged consumers to utilize its Kentucky Proud webpage to locate farmers markets offering locally grown fruit and meat products. KDA has also relaxed income guidelines for Kentuckians hoping to receive food through the emergency food assistance program. The request for increased income guidelines through TEFAP was quickly approved by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), and will allow those with dramatically reduced income to receive benefits through local food banks. Kroger, the nation’s largest food retail chain, has worked with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to increase sales of locally grown Kentucky meat products, a move that provides some relief for the state’s livestock producers.

The Massachusetts Department Agricultural Resources has created two COVID-19 specific webpages, a list of resources for the farming community and a guide for consumers on how and where to buy local.The MassGrown Map continues to be the portal for direct sales to consumers, and now features the ability to search specifically for farms that offer delivery or mail-order.

Plus, several more state departments of agriculture have quickly created interactive maps and directories to locate local farms and other sources for fresh food.

Support of local farmers and ranchers doesn’t stop at the states. On April 17th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. CFAP dedicates $3 billion dollars to the procurement of fresh produce, dairy, and meat, as well as $16 billion in direct payments to ailing agricultural production areas. The products purchased through CFAP will then be packaged for distribution and supplied to food banks and other non-profits serving Americans in financial and health-constrained positions.

Through CFAP, and unique state department of agriculture food relief programs, NASDA is optimistic that the food supply chain can remain fluid, that producers and processors can see partial financial reconciliation and those providing much needed food relief can continue to make sure that everyone in America remains nourished.

State departments of agriculture are responsible for a host of regulatory and marketing programs which ensure a safe, affordable, and sustainable food supply. NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which representants the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories. NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government and stakeholders.

Written by Will Feucht, Public Policy Intern, NASDA