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Senate Legislation to Protect America's Food Supply
Illinois Ag Connection - 05/29/2020

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has helped introduce the Food Supply Protection Act, legislation to help protect U.S. food supply after the COVID-19 crisis has put an unprecedented strain on farmers, workers, food banks, and families.

"It is vital that we do everything we can to protect our nation's food supply chain for families, farmers and workers," said 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."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is leading the legislation and it is also sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), 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.).

The shift in demand from restaurants and food service to retail and food donations has caused bottlenecks in the supply chain. Meanwhile, outbreaks of COVID-19 in food processing plants have sickened thousands of workers and slowed production across the country. Farmers have struggled to sell their crops, and some have had no choice but to dispose of perfectly good food. At the same time, the price of groceries is rising, and food banks and other human service organizations are experiencing exceptionally high demand.

In addition to advocating for worker protections and increased nutrition assistance benefits, the Food Supply Protection Act would help fill the gaps in the broken food supply chain, reduce food waste, and help farmers, workers, processors, food banks, and families in need.

Specifically, the Food Supply Protection Act would:

- Support food banks and non-profits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill would 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.

- Strengthen food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families. Through grants and reimbursements, the bill would 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 and focus on the needs and creative solutions in local communities. They would also 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.

- Protect workers and retool small and medium-sized food processors. Through grants, loans, and loan guarantees, the bill would support upgrading machinery, temporary cold storage, purchasing personal protective equipment and test kits, and cleaning. This funding would 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.

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

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