Smith: Food banks are struggling to keep up with dramatic increases in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers and ranchers are ready to work with USDA to help bridge the supply gap and get farm products to those in need. Scott Bennett, director of congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau, says there are challenges getting food from the fields to the food banks that need it.
Bennett: There’s been an increasing demand for the services of food banks since the COVID-19 crisis began, while at the same time, many farmers have had to destroy their crops in the field or dump milk due to lack of purchases. Many of these farm operations are geared toward food service and restaurant distribution, so we are looking at how we can assist these farmers while also assisting the food banks that have seen a rise in the demand for their services.
Smith: Farm Bureau and Feeding America came together asking the Department of Agriculture for assistance getting food to food banks as quickly as possible
Bennett: American Farm Bureau and Feeding America co-wrote a letter to Secretary Perdue showing that both parties are willing to work with USDA to find a solution. We know the ag supply chain can be complex at times, and if we eliminate some of those barriers while retaining food safety measures, hopefully farmers can deliver products to food banks with more ease.
Smith: Bennett says this idea would accomplish two important goals; it would help food banks get food to families that need it, plus it would allow farmers to harvest their crops.
Bennett: We hope that this effort can support the needs of our communities by assisting food banks, while also allowing farmers to harvest their crops. Our farmers want to help their communities in this time of need, but they also need some assistance themselves. Working with USDA and Feeding America on this issue, can hopefully solve both.
Smith: Chad Smith, Washington.