Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) has a new leader to help advance the future of farming…
On March 11th, Congress passed and the President signed the American Rescue Plan, which provides $1.9 trillion to help Americans recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The plan includes resources for vaccination efforts and public health; extensions of unemployment insurance; $1,400 stimulus checks to eligible individuals; a child care tax credit; aid to state and local governments to maintain services; housing assistance; support for school reopenings; and support for flagging pension funds to pay retirees among other measures. The agriculture-related provisions amount to about $16 billion. While they are relatively small compared to the other included measures, they do provide some important and significant investments, including:
- Direct Aid for Black, Indigenous, and Farmers of Color: the largest portion of the agriculture-related funding in the bill will provide historic debt relief to farmers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The bill will also provide over $1 billion to improve land access, address heirs property issues, establish an equity commission, and create a legal center to provide legal advice and resources to BIPOC farmers.
- Purchase of Agriculture Commodities and Food Assistance: the bill includes billions in funding to purchase agricultural commodities from farmers The funding will also support farmer delivery to families through non-profits, emergency feeding organizations, and restaurants.
- Strengthening Supply Chains: the bill provides billions in funding to strengthen supply chains and build further resilience in response to the pandemic. This includes providing grants and loans for equipment and supplies (i.e. personal protective equipment, test kits), as well as infrastructure investments for food processors, farmers markets, food banks and producers to respond to the pandemic and protect workers.
- Supporting Small Processors: the bill includes $100 million in financial assistance and reduces USDA overtime inspection fees that will help ensure livestock and poultry processing capacity for small meat plants that have been at maximum capacity during the pandemic.
- Food Assistance Benefits: the American Rescue Plan extends the 15 percent increase in the maximum SNAP benefit included in the December COVID response package from June 30, 2021 to September 30, 2021, as well as extends the Pandemic EBT program throughout the duration of the pandemic.
- Online SNAP Expansion: the bill provides $25 million to USDA to support the expansion of online SNAP through investments in technology modernization and increased technical assistance.