OPINION The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture thanks Congress for advancing a COVID-19 stimulus bill and fiscal-year-2021 omnibus-spending bill that provide important funding for agriculture and food programs. The new funding enables National Association of State Departments of Agriculture members to continue tailored COVID-19 responses as their community needs change through the duration of the pandemic.
We’re grateful for the financial support of the agricultural community, specifically the $100 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and $100 million for the Local Agriculture Market Program. Farmers markets have been devastated by the pandemic, and additional funding focused on local agriculture is critical for those markets’ survival.
State departments of agriculture were awarded $72.4 million in 2020 for Specialty Crop Block Grant funding; this next round of funding will be instrumental in enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops.
Farmers and ranchers have demonstrated their resiliency in recent years, enduring natural disasters, trade disputes, financial uncertainty and a pandemic. It’s critical that mental-health and stress programs be made available to assist farmers and ranchers in navigating these tumultuous events. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture praises Congress for providing a $28 million block grant to state departments of agriculture to support the foundation of our industry – the health and wellness of American farmers.
In addition the association appreciates Congress appropriating funds for improvements to meat- and poultry-processing facilities, particularly those facilities currently in a Cooperative Interstate Shipment program. The $60 million this bill provides to increase meat-processing capacity will help ensure supply-chain continuity for the animal-agriculture industry.
The association also appreciates Congress’ extension of the deadline for state and local governments to spend Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – CARES – Act funding. There are more successes in the fiscal-year-2021 omnibus bill.
- $10 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture Food Safety Outreach Program
- $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network
- $635 million for the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection program to keep pests and diseases from entering the United States
- $24 million for the State and Tribal Assistance Grants categorized for pesticides enforcement
As our attention turns to welcoming a new administration and Congress, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture will continue advocating for passing the bipartisan Farming Support to States Act. Serving as both local leaders and co-regulators with the federal government, association members are uniquely positioned to help farmers and rural communities heal from COVID-19 impacts. Despite that many state departments of agriculture have yet to receive dedicated funding for COVID-19 aid. National Association of State Departments of Agriculture members are leveraging local partnerships to stock foodbanks, help individual farmers access federal aid, and re-work local food supply chains to keep workers safe and our food supply moving.
Barb Glenn is the CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Visit www.nasda.org for more information.