The USDA is ready to start sending out the money that was set aside for farmers in the COVID-19 relief package. However, the way they have drawn up the requirements, too many farmers will be left out! As it stands, this program doesn’t recognize diversified farmers, organic producers, or those who sell direct to consumers or to local/regional markets. It also only covers losses from January to April, when many Oregon farmers are still planting, and there is no plan to help reach socially disadvantaged farmers with this information.
They have not released the full details of the program yet, so right now we need to speak up to make sure family farmers like YOU are included. What needs to change about the current approach:
- Provide payments to farmers selling into local/regional channels who have lost markets
- Conduct a thorough outreach program to reach all farmers and reserve funding for underserved producers, including farmers of color
- Focus funding toward family farms, not corporate middlemen
How to Help:
First, we want as many farmers as possible to publicly tell their own stories in their own voice, with photos! Speak up about the impacts you are seeing, the market losses you are experiencing, the innovating you are doing, and why it’s important that USDA supports farmers like you. You don’t need to have all the answers, just be willing to speak up in your own words. Your own stories, photos, and questions are most important – as is tagging USDA! Farmers across the country will be sharing stories using the hashtags:
#dobetterUSDA and #plant2020
This is a critical planting time for many farmers around the country and USDA is monitoring planting season this year. Using the hashtag #plant2020 to show any modifications or contingencies you are dealing with will draw their attention. Also encourage your customers to stand by you by sharing your posts!
The second way that farmers can help is to call your local FSA office and ask questions about your farm’s eligibility. You can find your local FSA office here. When you call be sure to mention you are calling about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program from USDA, which is $16B for farmer aid. Here are some questions to get you can ask to get started:
- I hear there is aid money available for small farmers who sell at farmers markets and directly to schools and local restaurants which have been impacted by the pandemic. Do you have any information about how to apply for that?
- Do I need to have any sort of documentation of my sales or losses? How do I show the pandemic’s impact on my business? [If you are a diversified grower – I grow and sell X varieties of crops and am able to capture a price premium for them. How can I ensure this is reflected in my aid?]
- Is there a way to get support if I am still able to sell my crops but my costs of production, marketing, and delivery have increased because of changing protocols? (Increasing home delivery, paying staff for added time sanitizing, additional safety equipment/PPE, etc.)
- Will I qualify for this program if most of my farm income comes later in the year?
- How will USDA handle payments to diversified farmers who don’t produce just one commodity? [Share a little bit about what you grow / raise]
- How can I prove my losses and price information as a certified organic farmer?
Speaking up now will help direct market, diversified, and organic farmers be taken into account for future USDA Coronavirus relief dollars. If we let the corporate agribusinesses set up the system in their favor now, Oregon’s family farmers might be left out of future efforts as well. Thank you for raising your voice!