Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) introduced legislation to strengthen the food supply and fill in gaps in the supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the “unprecedented strain” the pandemic has had on farmers, food banks, workers and families in Michigan.
“The COVID-19 crisis has tested the strength of our nation’s food supply chain, creating a ripple effect that’s harming our families, farmers and workers,” said Stabenow in a press release. “This bill will help strengthen our food supply by redirecting food to families and helping farmers and processors retool their operations.”
The bill seeks to address issues caused by a shift in demand from restaurants, food processing plants working at reduced capacity, farmers who are unable to sell their crops or animals, and high demand at food banks and human service organizations.
The bill, called the Food Supply Protection Act, will provide grants and reimbursements to purchase excess food and increase donations to food banks, schools, and non-profit organizations. The funds are designed to create partnerships to creatively address local problems.
“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,” the release says. The bill will also provide grants to increase the capacity of food banks and non-profit organizations.
The bill would provide grants and loans for personal protective equipment upgraded machinery so farmers and food processors can protect workers and cater to the changing supply chain more easily.
In addition to Sen. Stabenow, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, the bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“It is vital that we do everything we can to protect our nation’s food supply chain for families, farmers and workers,” said Sen. Brown. “This legislation will help strengthen our food supply chain by ensuring families are getting the meals they need, while keeping workers safe and helping farmers and processors retool their operations.”
The press release says over 40 food and agricultural organizations support the Food Supply Protection Act including Feeding American, the National Farmers Union, and the United Farm Workers Union.
Chuck Lippstreu, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said “ensuring a dependable, functioning food system amid this unprecedented emergency requires creative thinking and collaboration, and the Food Supply Production Act provides new ideas to enhance the federal government’s partnership across many critical areas … Michigan’s agribusinesses welcome this new measure to help safeguard worker safety, assist families in need and keep the food supply chain running.”