Photo: Alicia Harvie

Blog | July 28, 2020

Farmers are Essential: An Update on Our COVID-19 Response

by Caroline Malcolm Fiore

In these unprecedented and uncertain times, family farmers and ranchers are more essential now than ever before.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States this spring, Farm Aid heard directly from family farmers and ranchers. Right now, these farmers and ranchers are enduring supply chain disruptions, price declines for their goods, the loss of direct markets, and mounting costs for infrastructure, labor, as well as the implementation of COVID-19 safety practices to protect themselves, their workers and their customers. The pandemic’s impacts have further exacerbated the strain farmers are enduring after several years of slumps in agricultural markets, volatile trade disruptions and the effects of a changing climate. Despite these profound challenges, farmers and ranchers are working tirelessly each day to ensure that the good, healthy food we all rely on makes it to our tables.

For 35 years, Farm Aid has kept its finger on the pulse in farm country and deployed funds and resources to help farm families confront the challenges they face. Times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, become critical moments where we risk losing family farmers and ranchers if we do not adequately respond. That risk looms larger than ever right now as the vast majority of small and medium-scale farmers and ranchers are shut out of federal relief programs; particularly left out of the federal response are Black, Indigenous and other Farmers of Color across the country.

Farm Aid has taken urgent action to raise and disburse funds to support farmers and ranchers as they weather the pandemic. We’ve also turned to our partner organizations throughout the country to design a response strategy to support our nation’s diverse farm communities. This collaboration with – and empowerment of – grassroots farm organizations is at the heart of Farm Aid’s COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative, which provides immediate relief to family farmers and ranchers and invests in longer-term resilience strategies and resources that further strengthen our food producers.

Through the Resilience Initiative, we’ve engaged more than 120 partner organizations across the United States to collaborate regionally in the initial disbursement of over $400,000 in emergency household grants, raised through the generous support of our loyal donors, to hundreds of farm and ranch families. During weekly calls with our regional partners, we provide a space for connecting, peer support, and for sharing perspectives, experiences and approaches in serving farmers and ranchers.

At the same time, Farm Aid has convened our national partners, leveraging their decades of experience and expertise to create resources, guides, webinars and other programming and materials in multiple languages to help educate and build the capacity of grassroots organizations working with farmers on the ground. Through a series of discussions with our partners, we’ve learned about the various ways farmers can access federal relief programs and navigate new market and production conditions. We are actively working with our Washington, D.C. partners to advocate for policies that bolster the long-term strength of family farmers and ranchers.

These collaborations strengthen our own policy and advocacy work. Amplifying stories and applying learnings from partners across the country broadens Farm Aid’s understanding of these issues and enhances our response. Our on-the-ground connections inform our efforts to advocate for more federal funds and debt relief for farmers and ranchers – especially for small and medium-scale, limited resource and Black, Indigenous and other Farmers and of Color – and to champion federal investment in local and regional food systems in the next round of COVID-19 legislation.

As with most crises, the need of farmers and ranchers across the country has exceeded the funds raised for the Resilience Initiative, leaving Farm Aid and our partners with extremely difficult decisions about which farmers and ranchers we can support and which we may have to turn away. The generosity of folks like you can make a huge difference for impacted farmers and ranchers. Your support of Farm Aid will allow us to allocate additional relief funds to the Resilience Initiative and ensure that farmers and ranchers who need emergency household grants and resources can access them can access it. We know that you stand with family farmers and ranchers across the country. Please make a donation and continue to support our farmers and ranchers in other ways today!

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