News Article –
As the agriculture industry continues to navigate through the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, introduced the Food Supply Protection Act of 2020 as an alternative way to alleviate the disruptions and strengthen links within the food supply chain. Overall, this legislation will create resiliency in our food system by giving farmers and smaller food processors the proper tools to increase capacity and fill in the gaps between food waste and families in need. Furthermore, this legislation provides the state departments of agriculture a unique position to create partnerships across states lines to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic effectively as it pertains to the food supply chain. This opportunity utilizes the state departments of agriculture’s proximity to producers, food providers, and their institutional knowledge of their local food systems to form innovative partnerships that expand the reach of national food assistant programs while supporting local farmers and small businesses.
Co-sponsors for this bill include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT.), Sherrod Brown (D-OH.), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN.), Michael Bennet (D-CO.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D -NY.), Robert Casey (D- PA.), Tina Smith (D-MN.), Richard Durbin (D-IL.), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.).
The Food Supply Protection Act of 2020:
Address going demand in food banks and non-profits by increasing capacity:
The bill will provide infrastructure grants to food banks and other eligible non-profit organizations to improve, construct, rent, lease, or purchase infrastructure, equipment, and supplies that support the distribution of surplus perishable food or meals to individuals in need during COVID-19.
Through grants, loans, and loan guarantees, the bill will support purchasing testing kits, disinfectants, sanitation systems or hand washing stations, equipment to screen temperatures of employees, and other measures to protect and prevent against the spread of COVID 19.
Help smaller sized food processors meet shifts in demand:
This funding will assist farmers and smaller to medium-sized food processors with fewer than 1,500 employees. Eligible entities must use this funding to build flexibility into the food supply chain and create economic solutions that support agricultural and fishing industries.
Creates innovative partnerships across state lines:
Through a joint application process, two or more a State or Tribe agencies will facilitate connecting producers to food organizations with unused capacity due to COVID- 19. This bill gives grants and reimbursements that support new partnerships among departments of agriculture or other appropriate agencies within states and tribes to make purchases of excess food and increase donations to food banks, schools, restaurants, senior centers, after school programs, hospitality companies, and other public or private non-profits. These partnerships will promote innovative collaborations that will allow for a diverse variety of purchases and include many areas and products left out of the USDA’s current food box program to ensure more people in need and agricultural producers of all sizes and types can access support.
Both public and private non-profits, tribal organizations, and a restaurants operating an emergency food relief program that distributes meat, poultry, eggs, fluid milk, fruit vegetables, seafood, and other minimally processed foods are elidable for partnerships. Eligible food must be produced and processed in the United States and would have been unharvested or surplus if not donated. States or Tribes seeking funding must submit an initial application no later than 15 days after the enactment of this ACT. Applications must include a plan for administering the grants or other reimbursement programs. The minimum allocation for distributed funds includes $5,000,000 for each state and $200, 000 per Tribe. Total funds distributed to States and Tribes is $1,000,000,000. Allocation of funds will be based upon the state’s market value of agricultural products sold and the state’s funding under the emergency food assistance program established under the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983.