American Rescue Plan includes provisions for agriculture
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, House Resolution 1319, is a piece of legislation passed with the goal to realign the economy, send children back to school, make COVID-19 vaccinations available to all and provide poverty assistance.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the bill also provides specific provisions under the jurisdiction of the USDA to provide nutrition assistance, strengthen the food supply chain, invest in rural communities and support underserved producers.
“The American Rescue Plan will jolt our economy back to life, get money into the hands of struggling Americans, get our children back to school safely, get COVID-19 vaccinations out more swiftly and get nutrition assistance to millions of food insecure Americans,” commented Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The USDA shares as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 30 million adults and 12 million children may not have access to nutritious food. The American Rescue Plan includes access to an increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as expanded access to fruits and vegetables through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). In addition, the bill makes investments in expanded access for online grocery shopping.
Vilsack said, “The American Rescue Plan boosts SNAP benefits for food insecure families; it expands resources to mothers and young children to purchase healthy, fresh foods; and delivers badly-needed nutrition aid to U.S. territories. It also increases food available for distribution through food banks, nonprofits or restaurants to help feed families in need and at the same time supports farmers by purchasing their products.”
“America’s farmers, ranchers and producers will reap the benefits of the American rescue plan as more resources flow through the economy, as more businesses open up, spurring greater demand for American food and agricultural products.”
Food supply chain
COVID-19 disrupted many supply chains, especially the food supply chain. The American Rescue Plan makes long-term investments to build resiliency including investments in infrastructure and support for food processors, farmers’ markets, food banks, local food systems and producers, according to USDA.
“One of the things the pandemic really demonstrated to all of us is the fragility of our food systems,” said USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “Personally, I live on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and there are 40,000-50,000 head of cattle grown on the Reservation every year and our grocery store had empty meat counters.”
He continued, “There is a lot of emphasis from the administration and Secretary Vilsack to build a more resilient local and regional food system that can weather these types of setbacks more readily.”
The American Rescue Plan includes grants and loans for keeping essential food workers safe, as well as funds the monitoring of COVID-19 in animals and reduces overtime inspection fees paid by small meat and poultry processors.
According to USDA, the struggles socially disadvantaged farmers incur have been exacerbated by a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 infection rates, property loss, hospitalizations, death and economic hurt. The American Rescue Plan provides $4 billion toward debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers through loan repayment programs and the creation of a racial equity commission within the USDA.
Ducheneaux explained Congress passed this portion of the American Rescue Plan using the Section 2501 of the Food, Ag, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 to define socially disadvantaged producers.
“The definition includes Black or African American, American Indian, Alaskan Natives, Hispanic or Latino-ethnicity, Asian American or Pacific Islander farmers,” he shared. “Folks who are members of one of those groups and have FSA, Direct or Farm Storage loans are eligible for repayment of 120 percent of the amount of their indebtedness as of Jan. 1, 2021.”
“In rural America, the American Rescue Plan provides significant investments to help struggling home workers pay their mortgages, property taxes and property insurance,” said Vilsack. “It funds broadband to schools and hospitals and other community facilities.”
In addition, the program funds rural hospitals and provides a broadened access for COVID-19 vaccines and food assistance.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.