Farmers Feeding Our Families Need Help Now: Tell the USDA to Do Better

As farmers across the country are feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to distribute $16 billion in direct aid to producers who have experienced financial losses.

Applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will be open in early May, but the program, as currently designed, may leave out the family farmers feeding our communities.

USDA’s plan fails to:

  • Focus aid on independent, family-scale farmers, farmers who sell into local and regional markets, diversified farmers, and organic farmers who need help and have no other safety net (unlike large corporate operations)
  • Include a thorough outreach plan or reserved funding for underserved producers, including farmers of color
  • Reflect realistic timelines for farmers’ losses or their increased expenses

The farmers feeding our families need help now and have received little to no federal assistance to this point to help their businesses survive this crisis.

We have an opportunity to tell the USDA to do better. They have not yet released the full details on their program, so now is the time to urge them to fix problems with the program and get aid to the farmers who need it.

Here’s how you can help:

Farmers

Tell Your Story to the USDA on Social Media

The most effective thing you can do is share your story.

Did you have a major restaurant account disappear overnight? Were schools a big part of your business until they all shut down? Have you spent hours in front of a computer instead of in the field this spring as you rush to find an online sales platform? Did you suddenly lose a spot at your local farmers’ market because they had to reduce stall numbers to accommodate social distancing recommendations? Are you facing other difficulties?

Most importantly, 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!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Use the hashtags #dobetterUSDA and #plant2020 (the USDA follows this during planting season)
  • Tag the USDA @USDA on Facebook and Twitter. Tag your Congressional representative and Senators too! You can look them up here
  • Sample social media post: Hey @USDA! My farm has experienced major financial losses due to #coronavirus during #plant2020, but your farmer aid program doesn’t seem to include funds for farmers like me. This is a photo of [my fields, my crops, etc. Explain what the photo illustrates]. [Ask a question, such as: What are you going to do to help direct market farmers like me who have lost markets? How can diversified farmers show their losses? How can organic farmers qualify at organic prices? What about farmers whose losses came after April 16? How will you ensure equitable aid to farmers of color? How will you make sure family farmers, not just corporate middlemen, get aid?] We need you to #dobetterUSDA!

Call USDA Farm Service Agency Offices

Contact your Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to ask questions about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Not only will this help you receive information on the program as it becomes available, it will also help FSA offices share the concerns they’re hearing from small-scale, diversified, and direct-market farmers with the USDA.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Look up your county office using the the FSA County Office Directory
  • Call your local FSA office. Introduce yourself, your farm, and what you do
  • Let them know you’re calling about the new USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s $16 billion in farmer aid and that you have some questions about your eligibility. Consider the sample questions below.
  • Keep us posted about what you hear! Send news you learn from your FSA office to policy@oeffa.org and alerts@sustainableagriculture.net

Here are some example questions you can ask:

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • How can I prove my losses and price information as a certified organic farmer?

Farmer Allies

Tell the USDA You Stand with Farmers on Social Media

If you don’t farm, you can be effective by advocating for the farmers who continue to grow food for us when we need it the most. You don’t need to have all the answers; just speak up in your own words and stand with farmers!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Use the hashtags #dobetterUSDA and #istandwithfarmers
  • Tag the USDA @USDA on Facebook and Twitter. Tag your Congressional representative and Senators too! You can look them up here

Here are some sample social media posts you can use:

  • Hey @USDA! Organic [or vegetable, or small-scale, or direct-to-consumer] farmers need #coronavirus aid too! How will you include underserved farmers in the USDA aid program? Don’t leave out farmers in need. We need you to #dobetterUSDA! #istandwithfarmers
  • Hey @USDA! [Name of farm you are mentioning] is an amazing farm feeding our community during #coronavirus. I’m worried your aid program will leave them out. [include a photo if you can] How will you help them and other small farmers feeding our community? We need you to #dobetterUSDA!
  • Hey @USDA! Farmers across the country are feeling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Markets are upended, farmers and farm workers are in need of safety equipment, and everyone is working hard to get food to people amidst many challenges. I’m worried to see that now, to make things worse, the government’s new farmer aid program doesn’t seem to include some of the farmers who will be hit hardest. Now is the time for us to stand up for the resilient, innovative farmers and producers who are keeping their communities fed in a crisis despite lost markets. In a global state of emergency, how will you ensure that the ones feeding us are able to stay afloat? We need you to #dobetterUSDA!

OEFFA
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd.
Columbus OH 43214

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