Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin own Jóia Food Farm near Charles City in northeast Iowa,…
I wish now was a time where we could rest assured that farmers were being considered in efforts to relieve this crisis. Unfortunately, though recent legislation was supposed to extend relief to farms impacted by COVID-19, independent farms and agricultural businesses are still waiting. While aquaculture enterprises, agricultural cooperatives, and nurseries are eligible, the Small Business Administration (SBA, which handles disaster loans) specifically excludes farms from accessing vital loan assistance from emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs.
The legislation just passed clearly said funds would be available to farmers. The impacts of COVID-19 have devastated many farm businesses and there is no end in sight to the market disruption caused by this deadly virus. With the mounting closures of restaurants and farmers’ markets, many farms serving these customers have seen their sales evaporate overnight. While $9.5 billion in funding has been committed for local food systems and specialty producers, there is no information about how or when this will be accessible. The Farm Service Agency has an existing loan program for farmers but it is not sufficiently adapted to the current market situation of COVID-19, and at the time of writing A Greener World could find no adaptations to allow farms to access critical funds at this time. The promise of funds is meaningless if they’re not accessible when farmers need them.
A Greener World’s statement (see full press release here):
“We’re calling on all of our constituents to contact their representatives and demand urgent action to allow farmers to apply for the same relief as other businesses through the Small Business Administration—or, to put pressure on the USDA to provide resources for these farmers to access much-needed emergency funds. Along with healthcare workers, grocery stores and logistical and utility workers, farmers are on the front lines in the fight against this pandemic. They are continuing to work through unimaginable schedules and conditions—many times with no safety net and new demands of adapting to a pandemic—to provide us the food we depend on. These urgently needed loans could be the lifeline for sustainable, cutting edge farms in the United States. While funds have been allocated by Congress, no steps have been taken to expediently get this money to those who need it. As an organization working with some of the most impacted farmers we are painfully aware that resources are needed now.
While the first priority in this unprecedented and challenging time is keeping people safe and well, we also need crisis management that doesn’t sacrifice our future. If we can’t show our independent farmers the same level of appreciation we do for a multi-million dollar widget-maker, we face the very real danger of losing these farms forever—and with them, the food security of this country. We call on everyone who farms or eats to contact their representatives immediately and demand clarity on how independent farms can access the resources so readily available to other sectors.”
A Greener World offers resources and support for farmers and businesses navigating this rapid market change—through technical and marketing support, distributing important information and resources, and matching market supplies and demands. For more information on how A Greener World is responding to COVID-19 please visit https://agreenerworld.org/resources/covid-19/.
With best wishes to you and yours,
A Greener World