WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, successfully secured federal investments to support farmers, the rural economy, and improve food supply chain resiliency in the bipartisan government funding legislation that passed Congress and was signed into law. America’s food supply chain and agricultural economy has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis.
“Our farmers and food workers are serving our country by doing essential work every day to feed our country, but they are really feeling the dire economic impacts of this pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to weigh on our rural communities and agriculture economy, we must deliver more support so our farmers and food businesses have the tools they need to get through this economic crisis,” said Senator Baldwin. “I worked to ensure this government funding legislation includes more resources and funding to help address agriculture and food supply chain disruptions so our farmers can get their products to market and to consumers, and help prevent more severe economic losses in rural America.”
Improved PPP Eligibility for Farmers and Ranchers
The final government funding package includes Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation to allow farmers and ranchers who file a Schedule F to use their gross income, capped at $100,000, when applying for a PPP loan. The bill also permits producers who received a PPP loan based on their net farm profit to reapply with their gross income figure, with lenders allowed to offer the difference should the new loan amount be larger than the original amount.
Support Farmers’ Mental Health
The bill provides $28 million in state block grants to support farmer and rancher stress management due to COVID-19. Baldwin has long championed expanding mental health resources for farmers and is the author of the bipartisan FARMERS FIRST Act that provides competitive grant funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to state departments of agriculture, state extension services, non-profits and tribes to establish helplines and websites, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).
Food Supply Chain Resilience Investments
The legislation includes $335 million in funding to invest in longer-term food supply chain resiliency, and respond to the unique challenges faced by small and medium-sized meat and poultry processors, fruit and vegetable producers, local agriculture systems and farmers markets, and historically underserved farmers and ranchers. The funding could be used for a range of expenses, including to expand facilities, modernize equipment, increase training opportunities and adapt to local market conditions as needed.
Moving Perishable Food to Those In Need
The legislation provides $1.5 billion to fund purchases of food for distribution and donation to those in need, including to help implement worker protection measures, and retooling support for farmers, farmers markets, and food processors as they respond to COVID-19. It also provides $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot milk donation program, to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. This will help reduce losses for food businesses and will supplement the buying power of other nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC through additional investments in nutritious dairy, fruits and vegetables.