By Hannah Packman, National Farmers Union Communications Director
Last week, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.
At the organization’s convention in early March, National Farmers Union (NFU) members urged lawmakers to “enact much-needed short-term Covid-19 relief” and outlined their priorities for such an endeavor. Among other things, they recommended measures to build resilience in the food supply chain, assist struggling businesses, expand nutrition assistance programs, address racial inequities in federal farm programs, and make health care more accessible in rural areas. The final version incorporates many of NFU’s requests:
The bill includes direct payments up to $1,400 for individuals making less than $80,000, increases the value of the child tax credit, and extends a $300 federal unemployment insurance through September. Additionally, it provides funding for state and local governments, school reopenings, vaccine distribution, and housing assistance.
Food Supply Chain Resilience
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDA) will receive $4 billion to redistribute surplus commodities to charities, help small meat processors cover overtime inspection fees, and monitor animal diseases.
The bill offers $500 million worth of emergency grants to increase vaccine distribution capacity, telehealth capabilities, and other medical services in rural communities.
Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers
Socially disadvantaged farmers will be eligible for debt relief up to 120 percent of the amount owed as of the beginning of 2021. Additionally, approximately $1 billion will be set aside to fund technical assistance, outreach and training, and education for those farmers.
To address a spike in hunger, the bill extends a 15 percent boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits, facilitates the use of SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online, extends the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program to replace food support that families had previously been receiving through free and reduced-price school meals, and increases funding for several other nutrition assistance programs that help hungry mothers, infants, children, senior citizens, and homeless youth.
The bill includes an additional $50 billion in aid to small businesses, including a new $28.6 billion grant program for restaurants and more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program Advance Grants.
In a press release, NFU President Rob Larew praised the bill, saying it provides “a lifeline that will help keep families afloat” and that it “takes several steps towards more meaningful, enduring improvements” in the food system.”
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