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#TakeActionTuesday: Tell USDA What Local Food Systems Need for COVID-19 Response

Are you a farmer, farmworker, or farmers market manager? Do you run a food pantry, food hub, or processing facility? USDA needs to hear from you. 

In December 2020, Congress authorized $1.5 billion for 

  1. grants/loans to small/mid-sized food processors/distributors, farmers markets, producers, or other organizations to respond to coronavirus, including funds for measures to protect workers against COVID–19. This program could set precedent for future funding and programs.
  2. the purchase and distribution of food and agricultural products, including seafood, fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to individuals in need. This will likely be a new or updated version of the Farm to Families food box program which USDA implemented with COVID-19 relief funds in 2020.

This funding could prove a huge benefit for local and regional food systems, the people who work in them, and the people they feed, but much depends on how the funds are implemented. USDA is asking for feedback, and this is where your experience working in the food system comes in!

There are several opportunities coming up to share your opinion. USDA, via the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is conducting two listening sessions to hear from stakeholders:

March 19, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET: Grants Listening Session. To provide an oral comment, you must register by midnight ET TODAY, March 16.

March 22, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET: Food Program Purchase Listening Session. To provide an oral comment, you must register by midnight ET WEDNESDAY, March 17.

Registrants who request to speak will be contacted by an AMS staff member and must participate in a practice session to test audio requirements. Speakers will be introduced by a moderator, and speaking time is no more than three minutes.

Some specific questions USDA hopes to answer include:

  • What is the definition of small and mid-sized in your sector? How would a business in your sector confirm their status as small or mid-sized?
  • What categories of expenses or investments have been or are now necessary in your business sector to respond to coronavirus?
  • Should the current food purchase program continue? If so, what worked well and should be preserved, as well as what didn’t work well and should be redesigned?
  • What are the impediments to people applying for federal grants like this? What kinds of assistance or resources will they need to be able to apply?

You can also register to attend the listening session without providing an oral comment.

Find more details on each session and register at the links above. AMS is also soliciting written public comments (deadline March 31) on the same topic. Stay tuned for more details and support from RAFI-USA on writing a public comment!

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