Sen. Cory Booker introduced legislation to help bolster the food system in response to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dubbed the Local Food Assistance and Resilient Markets (FARM) Act, the legislation would work to strengthen local and regional food systems.
Booker noted the pandemic had stressed the American food supply considerably as food banks are grappling with greater demand while subsequently facing steep reductions in donations.
“Farmers have been forced to dump products due to supply-chain disruptions and a resulting lack of access to traditional markets,” he said in a press statement. “And corporate agribusiness is proving incapable of maintaining operations in a way that is safe for both workers and our food supply.”
Push for Online Services and Funding
The five-component plan was designed to provide greater choice to those purchasing foods, while ensuring farmers were fairly compensated.
The legislation would create specialty crop block grants, giving states the ability to award food assistance organizations and other entities to distribute specialty crops to those in need. The law would require 50% of distributed specialty crops to originate from small, beginning, and historically underserved producers.
Additionally, it would provide an additional $350 million for the Farm Microloan program over three years, and would double the loan cap to $100,000. It would temporarily waive certain eligibility requirements, as well.
Online SNAP would be expanded, giving states the tools to provide technical assistance to increase the number of retailer sin the program. It would have a focus on locally-produce foods, as well.
Under the Local FARM Act, funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) would be increased by $500 million, with $100 million earmarked for historically underserved producers. An additional $50 million would be allocated to finding ways to get products into the hands of consumers.
LAMP match requirements for certain nutrition programs and grant programs would be temporarily reduced, as well.
“This legislation strengthens local and regional food systems in order to avoid the harmful supply-chain disruptions stemming from a consolidated market and provides greater choice to those purchasing food to feed their families during this difficult time,” Booker said.