COVID Related Marker Bills: July 2020

By July 24, 2020Policy, VABF News

PRIORITY BILLS FOR GRASSROOTS

Food Supply Protection Act (S.3840) – Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). This bill includes infrastructure grants to food banks and nonprofits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand, as well as grants to support new food partnerships that increase donations to food banks and decrease food waste through funding to states and tribes to purchase surplus food and a USDA Donation Reimbursement Program. The bill also includes provisions and funding to assist producers, handlers of agricultural products, and food processors and manufacturers with covering the associated costs of necessary changes and upgrades to practices and equipment to improve food safety in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Press: Senator Stabenow Press
  • Current Cosponsors: S.3840
  • Bill Summary: Yes – attached
  • NSAC blog post: https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/is-there-help-on-the-horizon/
  • Talking Points:
    • The bill offers the most comprehensive solution proposed thus far for responding to the myriad of supply chain issues facing local and regional food systems. The FSPA would:
      •     Support improved access to small-scale livestock slaughter and processing by providing up to a $1m grant option for processors seeking to expand their capacity to meet demand.
      • Support farmers, cooperatives, value-added businesses, processors, farm worker organizations, and farmers markets in their efforts to pivot and retool their operations in response to the ongoing pandemic (including technology/software upgrades, COVID education materials, PPE, test kits and more) through rapid response grants and loans. Includes a simplified application for grants that are less than $100,000 and a 10% set-aside of funds for beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran producers or businesses.
      • Support getting more perishable local food into the supply chains of food banks and similar organizations by providing infrastructure grants and funding for purchasing food directly from local and regional producers.
      • Includes competitive grants to land-grant colleges and universities, State departments of agriculture, and other technical service providers to provide technical assistance, rapid training, and outreach for COVID–19 response throughout the food supply chain.

 

Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020 (S. 4202 / H.R. 7535) – Sen. Durbin (D-IL) & Senator Duckworth (D-IL); and Rep Kelly (D-IL). SNAP is not working as well as it could be during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because benefits cannot be used online in most parts of the country. This bill would expand online SNAP sales to all states and provide information technology investments and technical assistance to expand online SNAP to more authorized retailers, including direct market farmers and retailers beyond a small group of large national chains.

  • Press: Senator Durbin Press. Rep Kelly press
  • Current Cosponsors: S. 4202 / H.R. 7535
  • Bill Summary: Yes – attached
  • Talking Points:
    • While USDA has expanded the number of states able to allow online SNAP purchases, online SNAP is not yet nationwide, and the expansion has been largely limited to a few large national retailers (Walmart and Amazon). The information technology necessary to accept SNAP online can be costly and complicated; most small businesses, including farmers markets, direct market farmers, food hubs, local grocery stores, and cooperatives, have not been able to accept SNAP online creating an inequitable playing field and limiting families’ food access. The Expanding SNAP Options Act would:
      • Expand online SNAP sales to all 50 states.
      •     Create an online portal to allow farmers, farmers markets and small businesses to accept SNAP online with greater ease.
      • Create a technical assistance center to help all retailers set up online systems and get connected to the online portal.

ADDITIONAL BILLS – INTRODUCED

Local Food

Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6721/ S.3655) – Representatives Kim Schrier (D-WA), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME); Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). This bill will bolster the ability of food banks and food assistance programs to meet the needs of growing numbers of food insecure, while also providing much needed additional funding for purchases from small and medium farmers, by providing funds directly to States and state agencies and their food-bank partners. Includes funding set-asides to ensure targeted purchases of food from producers who rely on local agricultural food marketing—such as farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants and farm-to-school programs.

Local Agriculture Market Program Cost-share Waiver (H.R 6682) – Representatives Anne Kuster (D-NH), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME). This bill would waive the matching funds requirement for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and Value Added Producer Grant program in FY19, FY20 and FY21.

  • Press: Rep Kuster Press
  • Current Cosponsors:  H.R 6682
  • Bill Summary: No summary available – it does exactly what it says above.

Food Assistance for Kids and Families During COVID-19 Act of 2020 (H.R 6445 / S. 3563) –  Representative Jahana Hayes (D-CT); Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). This bill would authorize public-private partnerships between the USDA, authorized retailers and community based organizations to support food delivery to SNAP users and provide funding to support grocery delivery for program participants who are seniors, immunocompromised individuals and others unable to travel safely to a retail food outlet such as a grocery store or farmers market.

Farm to Fridge Act (H.R. 7035) – Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY) and Fred Upton (R-MI). This bill would provide grant funding through the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to farmers, farmers markets and related organizations to develop new alternative marketing projects to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through safe social distancing innovations. This bill also includes increased funding for LAMP, a waiver of the matching funds requirement for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and the authorization of VAPG “market rebuilding projects.”

The Local Food Assistance and Resilient Markets Act of 2020 (S. 4140)  – Sen. Booker (D-NJ): This bill includes a number of local food systems related provisions. It would provide $500 million for LAMP for COVID response grants, with $100 million dedicated to organizations that serve historically underserved producers. It would also temporarily waive matching fund requirements for all LAMP programs, BFRDP, Community Food Projects Grants, the farm to school grant program and reduce the match requirement for GusNIP. The bill would also provide additional funding for grants through the Specialty Crop Block Grants Program, expand the existing FSA Microloan program and expand SNAP EBT Online from a pilot to a national program and provide associated technical assistance funding.

Food and Farm Emergency Assistance Act 2020 – (H.R. 7656) Rep. Schrier (D-WA): This bill would provide quick grants with simple applications for COVID-19 related costs, including PPE, temperature screening, online sales adaptation, infrastructure supporting social distancing, etc. for farmers, ranchers, farmers’ markets, small and very small processors, food hubs, and other food businesses. Total grant awards would be $15,000 per individual or $35,000 per entity, and there would be no match requirement. Priority areas include historically underserved and beginning farmers and ranchers, and businesses in areas where there are food distribution problems.

  • Press: None at this time
  • Current Cosponsors: H.R. 7656
  • Bill Summary: Yes – attached

Small Meat Processing

New Markets for State Inspection Meat and Poultry Act (S.1720) – Senator Rounds (R-SD). This bill would allow meat and poultry products inspected by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines. Currently, there are 27 states with inspection programs “at least equal to” federal meat and/or poultry inspection programs.

Expanding Markets for State-Inspected Meat Processors Act of 2020 (H.R.7162) – Rep. Cheney (R-WY)

This bill would allow only meat products inspected by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines. This bill differs from the New Markets bill above in that it does not include state-inspected poultry. Currently, there are 27 states with inspection programs “at least equal to” federal meat and/or poultry inspection programs.

Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief COVID-19 Act (S.3797/ H.R.6977) – Senator Moran (R-KS), Senator Bennet (D-CO), and Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD). Right now, USDA pays for the required food safety inspectors for all federally inspected plants. For all hours over 40 hours per week, the small plants must pay USDA overtime fees at over $80 an hour. Some small plants who operate on thin margins cannot afford these fees. USDA would use the funds appropriated to help pay some of the full overtime fee to inspectors. This bill would reduce fees for small and very small plants for 18 months.

Credit

Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act (S.3602, HR 6683) – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Representative Sean-Patrick Maloney (D-NY). The bill would forgive USDA FSA direct loan debt up to $250,000 for farmers with adjusted gross income up to $300,000 (over the past 5 years). Unlike many other loan forgiveness programs, this bill would ensure that farmers who receive forgiveness maintain their ability to borrow from FSA in the future, as well as eliminate tax liability for the forgiven debt.

Payment Protection for Producers Act  (S.3916, H.R. 7175) – Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Rep. Kind (D-WI). This bill would make improvements to SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ensure farmers who do not have any income reported on their Schedule F are still deemed eligible for a PPP loan.