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Sonny Perdue announces new food supplies for food banks, help for farmers

David Pendered

By David Pendered

Sonny Perdue emerged Friday in the role of helping to shift $3 billion of the nation’s food supply to food banks and similar facilities before farmers destroy the food because they can’t afford to get it to market. The $19 billion relief program includes $16 billion in direct aid for farmers.

farm, rainbow

Farmers, food banks and food pantries received good news Friday, in the form of a $19 billion federal relief package to provide direct funding to farmers and to purchase food for distribution in food banks and similar facilities. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Perdue is the nation’s agriculture secretary and a former two-term Georgia governor, serving from 2003 to 2011. Perdue announced the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Friday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some troubling discrepancies in the nation’s food supply:

  • Farmers have been dumping milk and plowing crops under the ground because they cannot afford to bring it to market. Some of the problem relates to packaging: Food sold in bulk containers that are appropriate for restaurants and schools can’t easily be repackaged to sizes suitable for sale in grocery stores. The machines necessary to pack food into smaller containers aren’t readily available – and are expensive;
  • Food banks have been facing a run on supplies as unemployment surges. Georgia ranks No. 1 in the report released Thursday for the increase in the number of initial claims – 256,312. California ranked 2nd, with 139,511 initial claims; followed by Pennsylvania, with 127,037 initial claims, according to the federal Labor Department’s weekly claims report issued Thursday.

President Trump directed the Agriculture Department to devise what a statement described as an, “immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.”

The program has three parts:

  • $16 billion in direct support to farmers. Payments are to be based on actual losses related to COVID-19;
  • $3 billion to purchase fresh produce, dairy and meat for distribution by food banks and related facilities;
  • Up to $1.7 billion in existing funds that the Agriculture Department is to redirect from other funding sources to buy food and help offset administrative costs at food banks.
sonny perdue, profile

Sonny Perdue

Perdue said in the statement:

  • “During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA are standing with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of. The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers.
  • “This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”

Here are the bullet points on the funding programs:

Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: 

“The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.”

USDA Purchase and Distribution: 

“USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.”

The additional funding, up to $1.7 billion, is described as such:

  • “USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.
  • “The FFCRA and CARES Act [two relief measures passed by Congress] provided at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases. The use of these funds will be determined by food bank need and product availability.”

 

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David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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