Small and Local Farms Need Support in the Next COVID-19 Aid Package

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Producers across the country have been hit hard from COVID-19 – lost markets, low commodity prices, and investing resources to pivot to new markets to stay afloat. Funding from the CARES Act has helped but has not been enough to meet the scale of this national crisis.

For this reason we’re asking for the inclusion of Senator Gillibrand’s bill S. 3602 and Representative Maloney’s companion bill H.R. 6683the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act – in the COVID-19 legislative package now under debate. This bill supports small-scale farmers and ranchers who have been hit particularly hard from restaurant and school closures and face mounting crushing debt payments from federal loans.

This act forgives USDA Farm Services Agency direct loan debt up to $250,000 for farmers with adjusted gross income up to $300,000 for the past 5 years, regardless of what they grow. Forgiveness of FSA direct loan debt includes direct farm ownership loans, direct farm operating loans, and emergency loans. Unlike many other loan forgiveness programs, this bill ensures that farmers who receive forgiveness or write-downs under this legislation maintain their ability to borrow from FSA in the future and eliminates tax liability for the forgiveness. Farmers will have a one-year window to apply for the loan forgiveness.

Please contact your senators and representative ASAP to ask them to support the inclusion of this important bill in the next COVID-19 aid package.

We’re also asking for the inclusion of Senator Booker’s Local FARM Act of 2020 (S.4140) in the next COVID-19 legislative package. The Local FARM Act offers several important investments in local food systems, food and nutrition assistance programs, and the FSA Microloan Program while providing critical benchmarks for prioritizing historically underserved communities through these programs. In summary, the Local FARM Act supports:

• Specialty Crop Block Grants to states to award food assistance organizations focused primarily on marketing locally grown food to procure and distribute specialty crops to those in need, with fifty percent of the specialty crops purchased from small, beginning, and historically underserved producers.
• Expanded Online SNAP benefits and increases the number of retailers able to accept and redeem online SNAP benefits, with at least 25 percent of funds must be used to assist local and regional retailers such as farmers markets, food hubs, and agricultural cooperatives.
• Reduced Matching Requirements for certain nutrition programs and grant programs under the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).
• Expanded LAMP Funding by $500 million, with $100 million dedicated to organizations that serve historically underserved producers.
• Expanded Farm Microloans with an additional $350 million for 3 years, eases eligibility requirements, extends repayment terms at a 1% or less interest rate, and gives priority to beginning, socially disadvantaged, and niche or nontraditional farmers and ranchers.

Please contact your senators ASAP in support of Senator Booker’s Local FARM Act of 2020 to be included in the next COVID-19 aid package.

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