USDA Needs Tools to Address Pandemic, Empower Farmers

NRDC co-authored a letter to the White House and Congress, supported by  162 organizations stressing the importance of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) pandemic related funds to help our nation recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA is well positioned to ensure that further investments in more just, equitable, and resilient food production and supply chains remain central to that recovery. The nation can and must support vital public health investments and nimble food systems as climate change increasingly threatens food and nutrition security.

In 2020 and 2021, Congress provided these funds to USDA to help the nation address the pandemic and associated supply chain disruptions.  A portion of these resources were intended to ensure that smaller scale and historically underserved producers, were supported in weathering price and supply chain shocks.. These resources should be a down payment on a more equitable and resilient future for American agriculture. Instead, the latest version of the Covid Supplemental includes a $1.6 billion rescission of funding for these critical purposes. The cut will have a ripple effect across our food system, with vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of it.

This type of funding is critical to support producers, like regenerative and organic farmers who are mitigating drought, rebuilding the health of the soil and offering a solution to climate change.  As discussed in previous NRDC blogs about Covid Response funding and in our advocacy around Build Back Better, to maximize their ability to fight climate change through agriculture, organic and regenerative producers need consistent access to new and stable markets. 

Congress must act quickly on a COVID Supplemental in order to provide resources to front line health care workers, beleaguered states, and public health systems.
But this shouldn’t come at the expense of other interventions to mitigate pandemic impacts. USDA is in a crucial position to help protect our food system from climate change and other crises that increasingly threaten our food and nutrition security. Funding for their programs should remain a priority.

About the Authors

Matthew Kaplan

Senior Attorney, Nature Program

Lena Brook

Director, Food Campaigns, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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