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Farm Aid distributes $400,000 to strengthen farmers impacted by COVID-19

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Farm Aid announced the disbursal of $400,000 to launch a national COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative, working with more than 120 local, state and regional organizations across the country to pair immediate farmer relief efforts with longer term resilience strategies.

Already endangered by years of low prices, trade disruptions, frequent natural disasters and climate change, farmers now also face myriad impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

These include loss of direct markets from the closure of restaurants, schools and other institutions; increased infrastructure and labor costs associated with creating new markets; supply chain and labor disruptions; and even greater declines in prices for their products.

Through the Farmer Resilience Initiative, Farm Aid is distributing relief funds in all 50 U.S. states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, administered by local and regional partners.

Grants, distributed in $500 increments, will help farmers meet household expenses and are paired with resources developed by Farm Aid’s national partners, which include Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Intertribal Agriculture Council and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Together, these partners work to help farmers and ranchers navigate recovery.

“Farmers and ranchers face a deep and multifaceted farm crisis. Federal responses to both the ongoing economic crisis and COVID-19 have unfortunately flowed to farms with the most resources, as well as powerful corporate interests, leaving the vast majority of farmers high and dry,” said Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid’s advocacy and farmer services director.

“Without aggressive action, we will lose thousands of farms and ranches to this crisis, with ripple effects across our food system that are sure to further drain rural economies, impoverish food and farm workers and consolidate land and markets into even fewer hands.”

To help farm families recover from the impacts of COVID-19, the Farmer Resilience Initiative is:

• Investing in farmer-led solutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic;

• Deploying emergency grants to family farmers and ranchers in need, particularly those producers that are less likely to receive federal and state disaster aid;

• Coordinating a national network of experts to create comprehensive resources for farmers;

• Offering support to farmers under stress through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and connecting farmers to the legal, financial and mental health support resources they need to recover;

• Supporting local, state and national farm organizations working on the ground to help farmers navigate this crisis; and

• Advocating for needed COVID recovery funds and resources from the federal government for short-term relief and long-term resilience.

Farm Aid’s collaborative approach to the Farmer Resilience Initiative is informed by more 30 years of experience in disaster response, which relies on the participation and strength of grassroots organizations on the ground in affected communities.

By handing major decision-making authority over to the local and regional organizations that work most directly with farmers, Farm Aid shares power with its grantees and supports local leadership to best address the needs of America’s diverse farm communities.

Farm Aid’s grant-making is one aspect of its work to keep family farmers on the land, growing good food for all. In addition, other Farm Aid programs inspire an increased demand for family farm food; bring farmers, advocates and activists together for trainings and other opportunities; advocate for policies that serve farmers and eaters alike; and invite everyone to be part of building a thriving family farm system of agriculture.

For more information about the Farmer Resilience Initiative, visit www.farmaid.org/farmer-resilience-initiative/.

Farm Aid welcomes donations at www.farmaid.org/donate.

Voices Of Resilience

Melanie Allen, program director of the Black Farmer Fund, an organization building a community investment fund to serve Black food system entrepreneurs across New York state: “It is critically important to provide direct relief to Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities during this time. And there is also the essential need to invest in long-term recovery and infrastructure-building that BIPOC farming communities will need after the pandemic.”

Scott Blubaugh, president of American Farmers and Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union: “America’s farmers and ranchers already carry a great burden to produce food and fiber under increasingly stressful conditions. Following years of low and volatile markets from continued trade issues and other disruptions, they did not need another catastrophic event like the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope grant efforts such as Farm Aid’s Farmer Resilience Initiative will be a bright spot of relief for our nation’s struggling agricultural producers.”

Shari Sirkin, executive director of Friends of Family Farmers in Portland, Oregon: “Friends of Family Farmers is proud to work with several other fantastic nonprofit organizations in Washington and Alaska. We aim to ensure that this money gets to historically underserved farmers most harmed by COVID-19. Meeting and working with these other caring, passionate people to help family farmers in our region is time well spent.”

Donn Teske, president of Kansas Farmers Union: “Kansas Farmers Union has always been so impressed with how Farm Aid steps forward when needed with what they can. We have had the honor of assisting their efforts in Kansas over the years after tornadoes, flooding and now COVID-19.”

Kendra Kimbirauskas, vice president of the Northwest Farmers Union and a farmer from Linn County, Oregon: “Some of the food producers most impacted in the Pacific Northwest by COVID-19 are those who come from Black, Indigenous, or People of Color communities and had accounts with restaurants that were forced to shutter their doors months ago. These are some of the food producers who have suffered the most yet weren’t provided COVID aid by our federal government. While we know this money is merely a drop in the bucket, we hope that it will provide some relief to these producers during these tough and troubling times. We are grateful to Farm Aid and our organizational partners for their efforts to help ease the pain facing these farmers, ranchers, fishers and their families in our communities.”

Christina Stucker-Gassi, chair of the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils: “From the get-go, we’ve wanted to leverage this funding to bring greater awareness to the larger issue of disparities in who gets access to land and resources to farm, which has led us to focus our outreach to farmers who identify as People of Color, women, and new and beginning farmers.”

Vern Jantzen, chair of the Nebraska Rural Response Council: “The Farm Aid COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative funds for Nebraska are being administered by our Rural Response Hotline. We have prioritized meeting the immediate family living expenses for farm, ranch and rural families hit hard by COVID-19.”

Martin Lemos, co-executive director of the National Young Farmers Coalition: “Farming communities already shoulder a great deal of risk, and the economic turmoil resulting from COVID-19 is pushing many farmers to a breaking point. We are grateful to Farm Aid for working tirelessly to advocate on behalf of farmers in crisis. And we are thankful for this opportunity to join them and partner organizations from across the country to support the labor of young farmers and ranchers, specifically Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color. It is our hope that these funds will assist farmers and ranchers as they fight hard to keep their businesses open through the uncertainty and challenges of this pandemic and to ensure food security for their communities.”

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