COVID Resources: Food Systems and Agriculture
Covid-19 demonstrated that the corporate food supply chain is one crisis away from failing, which puts communities at risk of being food insecure and could cause barriers for local farmers working to address the food needs of their community. In order to ensure that communities are resilient in their ability to access food during a crisis, legislators should work to ensure that there is a sound regional and/or local alternative food supply chain with a plan to get food to those who need it while also ensuring that food and farm workers are adequately protected in their workplaces.
- Support for Farmers
- Appropriate additional funds for their agriculture community. Here are bills from Vermont and North Carolina and Utah.
- Appropriate additional resources for farm safety, rural mental health and farm crisis services. Here is what Minnesota has done.
- Include small independent farmers in any small business aid like this bill from New York did.
- Local Food Infrastructure
- Designate farmers markets as essential local service providers. Here ihttps://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2020s1/Measures/Overview/HB4206s a list of states that have done this.
- Provide opportunities for increased local meat infrastructure. Oregon, North Carolina, New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, Wyoming have all been working on bills to bolster local meat production to service small and independent farmers who are providing meat for their local communities.
- Create working groups to assess food security and a local food supply to bolster community resiliency. New York and Utah have both done this.
- Food Security
- Use new flexibility in SNAP to respond to COVID-19 challenges. Here is an overview of what states can do and here is what New Jersey did to increase access to SNAP benefits.
- Provide additional resources for food access, particularly to underserved communities. Here is one example from Minnesota. Mississippi attempted a bill to include reimbursements to local municipalities for a variety of services including food delivery to senior citizens and other vulnerable populations. Pennsylvania has a bill that includes resources for a food hotline, food banks and additional SNAP benefits.
- Provide additional support for Food Pantries. Here is what Colorado did and North Carolina appropriated additional funds as part of an omnibus package to be split equally among food banks.
- Provide grants to local organizations to purchase local food (this helps farmers too). An example from Minnesota.
- Provide emergency food assistance to undocumented persons like California did.
- Allow school buses to use the eight-light system when making food deliveries to families with school-aged children, as was done in Vermont.
- Farm & Food Worker Safety
- Appropriate funds for farmers to purchase PPE for farm and food workers. See this bill from New Jersey.
- Ensure that state information related to farm worker safety is communicated in both Spanish and English. Here is what Vermont did and this is the bill being considered in California.
- An Executive order from California Governor Newsom requiring paid sick leave for workers, while Michigan Governor Gretchen Withmer issued an Executive Order on migrant housing camps during COVID-19. .