May 27, 2020

Gillibrand, Colleagues Introduce Legislation To Protect U.S. Food Supply Amid COVID-19 Crisis

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, joined Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to protect the nation’s food supply, which has been threatened by the COVID-19 crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented shift in demand, moving it away from restaurants and food service and towards retail and food donations. As farmers struggle to sell their produce and meat, many have had to dispose of their goods, while at the same time, millions of newly unemployed Americans are facing a hunger crisis, as the price of groceries rise and food banks grapple with exceptionally high demand. The Food Supply Protection Act would address these novel issues by strengthening our food supply chain, reducing food waste, helping food banks meet demand, and supporting both farmers and families in need.

“The unprecedented strain on our food supply demands innovative solutions to meet the needs of New York’s farmers, families, and workers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation will help farmers and food processors modernize their operations to meet the new demands of this crisis, enable our front line workers to keep food on the table, and put food into the hands of New Yorkers facing food insecurity. I’m proud to support the Food Supply Protection Act, which will take bold steps to address the COVID-19 crisis and protect families from food shortages.” 

The Food Supply Protection Act would provide additional resources to fill the gaps in the broken food supply chain, reduce food waste, and help farmers, workers, processors, food banks, and families in need by:  

  • Supporting food banks and non-profits to increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill will provide infrastructure grants that can be used for additional cold storage and refrigeration, transportation, personal protective equipment, rental costs, and additional use of commercial and community infrastructure. 
  • Strengthening food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families. Through grants and reimbursements, the bill will support new partnerships to make purchases of excess food and increase donations to food banks, schools, nonprofits. These partnerships will promote innovative collaborations with chefs and restaurants, propose creative solutions, and focus on the needs of local communities. They will allow for a diverse variety of purchases and include many areas and products left out of the USDA’s current food box program to ensure more people in need, and agricultural producers of all sizes and types, can access support.
  • Protecting workers and retooling small and medium-sized food processors. Through grants, loans, and loan guarantees, the bill will support upgrading machinery, temporary cold storage, purchasing personal protective equipment and test kits, and cleaning. This funding will assist farmers and small and medium-sized food processors in protecting their workers and help them cater to new markets so they can continue operations and alleviate bottlenecks in the supply chain.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Gillibrand has worked to protect farmers and reinforce the nation’s food supply throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand introduced the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act, which would address disruptions in the food supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and directly connect farms to food banks by providing $8 billion in block grants to food banks in the top vegetable and fruit producing states. Previously, she announced the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act to provide economic relief for small farmers suffering from massive financial losses due to reduced demand and supply chain disruptions. In addition, Senator Gillibrand has repeatedly urged the administration to support dairy producers and provide assistance under the CARES Act for local food producers who have experienced losses due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Food Supply Protection Act is supported by more than 40 food and agricultural organizations, including Feeding America, the James Beard Foundation, Chef José Andrés, National Farmers Union, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the National Milk Producers Association, United Fresh, United Farm Workers Foundation, and more.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.