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Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire

Kuster Leads 19 Bipartisan Members in Calling on Agriculture Department to Support Small and Mid-Sized Farmers

May 1, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Annie Kuster (NH-02) led a group of 19 Members of Congress in sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure as much food as possible purchased through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is locally sourced and procured from small and mid-sized producers.

Under authority granted to it by Congress in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the USDA has committed to working with distributors and wholesalers on a CFAP Distribution and Purchase program that will spend $3 billion buying food from farmers and producers for distribution to food banks and other community organizations that address food insecurity. This bipartisan effort pushes the Department to focus on purchasing from small and mid-sized producers.

“If executed with an emphasis on purchasing from small, family farms, CFAP could be a vital lifeline to these producers who have lost markets and supply chains needed to remain financially viable,” wrote the members. “We know [Sec. Perdue shares] our belief that small farms are the backbone of our nation. They comprise the vast majority of agriculture businesses, sustain our rural economies, and feed their fellow Americans from coast to coast. Their ability to weather the current crisis is critical to sustaining our food supply, both now and in the years ahead. Unfortunately, many of them lack the financial infrastructure of large-scale agriculture operations.

“We ask that you take a strategic approach that will ensure the amount of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats purchased from small and mid-sized producers is maximized,” the members continued. “It is also imperative to the long-term health of our food supply chain that, to the fullest extent possible, these producers be identified based upon their proximity to the intended charitable organization recipients. By using this program to link food banks with farmers located within approximately one hundred miles of their facilities, the USDA can help foster invaluable connections between producers and those who are food insecure. This would help the program best support those on both ends of the food supply chain.”

In addition to Rep. Kuster, the letter was signed by: Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Darren Soto (FL-09), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue,

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implements its $3 billion commitment to purchase fresh food for food banks and community organizations, we write to urge the Department to ensure as much of this food as possible is locally sourced and procured from small and mid-sized producers. These purchases are a critical component of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and will make a tremendous difference to those confronting food insecurities during the COVID-19 pandemic. If executed with an emphasis on purchasing from small, family farms, CFAP could also be a vital lifeline to these producers who have lost markets and supply chains needed to remain financially viable.

We know you share our belief that small farms are the backbone of our nation. They comprise the vast majority of agriculture businesses, sustain our rural economies, and feed their fellow Americans from coast to coast. Their ability to weather the current crisis is critical to sustaining our food supply, both now and in the years ahead. Unfortunately, many of them lack the financial infrastructure of large-scale agriculture operations. With the closure of everything from restaurants to farmers markets, commodity prices falling, and the absence of other revenue sources like agritourism, smaller producers are having an especially hard time making ends meet. Recent years of economic instability in the agricultural sector have only exacerbated this current challenge.

As the USDA works with distributors and wholesalers on the CFAP Distribution and Purchase component in the days and weeks ahead, we ask that you take a strategic approach that will ensure the amount of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats purchased from small and mid-sized producers is maximized. It is also imperative to the long-term health of our food supply chain that, to the fullest extent possible, these producers be identified based upon their proximity to the intended charitable organization recipients. By using this program to link food banks with farmers located within approximately one hundred miles of their facilities, the USDA can help foster invaluable connections between producers and those who are food insecure. This would help the program best support those on both ends of the food supply chain.

Please extend our gratitude to all USDA employees who are working diligently to support American agriculture during this pandemic. We stand ready to partner with you to guarantee the success of CFAP.

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