Rep. Michael Saba Hartford District 9 Supports Small Farmers

Representative Michael Saba District 9 Hartford signs letter with 128 state legislators from 34 states urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to utilize Cares Act funds specifically allocated for our agricultural producers, farmers and ranchers to be distributed with appropriate emphasis on the small farmers and producers including our Native Americans and other minority producers and agricultural workers. 

The letter and signatories to Secretary Perdue follows:

April 23, 2020

The Honorable George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250 Dear Secretary Perdue:

We are 128 state legislators from 34 states writing to you as state policymakers who are gravely concerned about COVID-19 and the impact on our local food and specialty crop producers.

Significant revenue losses are projected for the multibillion-dollar local food industry in which producers sell directly into local and regional markets.

In view of Congress’s decision to allocate some $9.5 billion to support local food production during and following this public health emergency, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to focus its discretionary authority in the allocation of these resources to mitigate the financial harm to those producers working to ensure that our communities have local, fresh and wholesome food, as well as to prevent the structural damage to markets that would set back regional and community-based food system development for years to come.

At a time of economic and social disruption—when the potential for innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship are greatest—we encourage the department to support the continued development of emerging, sustainable models for food production, processing, and distribution, that also have become lifelines for food banks and school feeding programs across the country.

We are concerned that Congress gave little guidance for how this CARES Act appropriation will be spent. And we are conscious of the fact that many of our local producers, Black farmers, and underserved minority farmers who do not currently participate in USDA programs could be overlooked in the distribution of funds.

We insist that the USDA solicit and respect the recommendations of the local food experts in our state departments of agriculture and land grant universities, as well as the voices of food producers and the many other players in our local and regional food systems, as you strive to ensure the equitable distribution of federal resources.

For example, we suggest that you strongly consider allocating a major portion of the appropriation to state departments of agriculture in the form of block grants, based on reasonable metrics associated with food production and domestic consumption, so that each state can address its unique needs based on a model other than “one size fits all.”

Whether the funds are expended through the states or directly by USDA, we urge you to ensure that the resources are equitably distributed to benefit local food producers.

A number of USDA programs rely on local food producers for their success, including the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, Double Up Food Bucks, and the Produce Prescription Program. If additional funds cannot be allocated to these programs directly, then direct support under the CARES Act for local producers who supply such programs will be essential.

We support the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in many of its recommendations and urge USDA to observe the following principles in making these decisions:

• Ensure that aid to local and regional food system food producers is commensurate with expected losses of more than $1 billion;

• Invest in and offer support for market development designed to foster the stabilization, growth and increased sustainability of the production of food for local and regional consumption;

• Prioritize small- and mid-sized farms that sell directly into local and regional markets, with special attention to farmers historically underserved by USDA;

• Provide funds directly to producers, including livestock contract growers, and not to integrators, packers, or processors likely to be eligible for aid through other programs;

• Ensure that information about applying for aid is readily accessible, provided in multiple languages and formats, and that assistance for applicants with limited English proficiency is readily available;

• Not limit aid to farmers that are already participating in federal programs; farms should not be required to have an FSA number in order to receive aid;

• Provide outreach to farmers about aid opportunities that is thorough and robust, including outreach to urban farmers, indigenous farmers, Black farmers, minority farmers, very small and limited-resource farmers, and farmers with limited English proficiency;

• Guarantee that the Inspector General has all of the information to ensure a timely and robust audit of the implementation of the agricultural provisions in the CARES Act.

Further, we urge USDA to extend grant deadlines for applicants to recognize the hardships that they are experiencing and to ensure the utmost flexibility during the national public health disaster.

We thank you for your attention and consideration, and we look forward to working with you to engage our constituents involved in local agricultural systems, now and in the future.

Sincerely,

The undersigned

Representative KC Becker

Colorado

Representative Della Belati

Hawaii

Senator Shenna Bellows

Maine

Representative Joel Briscoe

Utah

Representative Julie Brixie

Michigan

Representative Bri Buentello

Colorado

Senator Claire Celsi

Iowa

Senator Stephanie Chang

Michigan

Delegate Lorig Charkoudian

Maryland

Representative Annmarie Christensen

Vermont

Representative Brian Clem

Oregon

Representative James Coleman

Colorado

Representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas Vermont

Representative Mari Cordes

Vermont

Senator Sue Crawford

Nebraska

Representative Lisa Cutter

Colorado

Representative Mary Jo Daley

Pennsylvania

Senator Allison DeGazon

Virgin Islands

Senator Michael Dembrow

Oregon

Senator Andrew Dinniman

Pennsylvania

Representative Kari Dolan

Vermont

Representative Molly Donahue

Iowa

Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker

Delaware

Representative Caleb Elder

Vermont

Representative Daneya Esgar

Colorado

Representative Charen Fegard

Vermont

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer

West Virginia

Senator JD Ford

Indiana

Senator Mike Gabbard

Hawaii

Representative Tavia Galonski

Ohio

Senator Erika Geiss

Michigan

Senator Sara Gelser

Oregon

Senator Eric Giddens

Iowa

Senator Jeff Golden

Oregon

House Democratic Leader Christine Greig

Michigan

Delegate Michele Guyton

Maryland

Representative Chris Hall

Iowa

Representative Pricey Harrison

North Carolina

Representative Adam Hattersley

Florida

Representative Craig Hickman

Maine

Senator Rob Hogg

Iowa

Representative Joseph Hohenstein Pennsylvania

Representative Rachel Hood

Michigan

Representative Kara Hope

Michigan

Representative Charles Isenhart

Iowa

Senator Jani Iwamoto

Utah

Senator Troy Jackson

Maine

Representative Carolyn Jackson

Indiana

Representative Dominique Jackson

Colorado

Senator Pam Jochum

Iowa

Representative Chris Kennedy

Colorado

Representative Cathy Kipp

Colorado

Delegate Kaye Kory

Virginia

Representative Bob Kressig

Iowa

Representative Jasmine Krotkov

Montana

Representative Fue Lee

Minnesota

Representative Deborah Lekanoff

Washington

Representative Vicki Lensing

Iowa

Senator Matthew Lesser

Connecticut

Representative Ben Lien

Minnesota

Representative Todd Lippert

Minnesota

Representative Leslie Love

Michigan

Senator Margie MacDonald

Montana

Representative Mary Mascher

Iowa

Representative Jim Masland

Vermont

Senator Sean McCann

Michigan

Representative Julie McCluskie Colorado

Representative Charlie McConkey

Iowa

Representative Curt McCormack Vermont

Representative Tracy McCreery

Missouri

Representative Genevieve McDonald

Maine

Representative Andy McKean

Iowa

Representative Barbara McLachlan

Colorado

Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet Colorado

Delegate David Moon

Maryland

Representative Megan Murray

New Hampshire

Representative Logan Nicoll

Vermont

Representative Andrea Olsen

Montana

Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz

New York

Representative Carolyn Partridge

Vermont

Representative Avram Patt

Vermont

Assemblywoman Sarah Peters

Nevada

Representative William Pluecker

Maine

Senator Dayna Polehanki

Michigan

Representative Dylan Roberts

Colorado

Representative Eddie Rodriguez

Texas

Representative Wes Rogers

Missouri

Representative Michael Saba

South Dakota

Representative Lindsay Sabadosa Massachusetts

Senator John Sabatina, Jr.

Pennsylvania

Senator Linda Sanborn

Maine

Representative Robin Scheu

Vermont

Senator Judy Schwank

Pennsylvania

Representative Katrina Shankland

Wisconsin

Representative Sharon Shewmake

Washington

Representative Jeffrey Shipley

Iowa

Representative Jonathan Singer

Colorado

Representative Emily Sirota

Colorado

Representative Trevor Squirrell

Vermont

Representative Art Staed

Iowa

Representative Sharon Steckman

Iowa

Representative Cherlynn Stevenson

Kentucky

Senator Sharif Street

Pennsylvania

Representative Mary Sullivan

Vermont

Representative Randall Szott

Vermont

Representative Geran Tarr

Alaska

Representative Raquel Teran

Arizona

Representative Liz Thomson

New Mexico

Representative Kerry Tipper

Colorado

Representative Brianna Titone

Colorado

Representative Maida Townsend

Vermont

Representative Chip Troinao

Vermont

Representative Donald Valdez

Colorado

Assembly Member Jo Ann Van Slyke

New York

Senator Mary Ware

Kansas

Representative Ami Wazlawik

Minnesota

Representative Mike Weissman

Colorado

Representative Ken Wells

New Hampshire

Representative Marty Wilde

Oregon

Representative Dave Williams

Iowa

Representative Angela Witwer

Michigan

Representative Mary Wolfe

Iowa

Representative Theresa Wood

Vermont

Senator Mike Woodard

North Carolina

Representative Michael Yantachka

Vermont

Representative Mary Young

Colorado

Delegate Lisa Zukoff

West Virginia