COVID-19

USDA announces food distribution program, but will it help farmers?

Jasmine Garsd May 11, 2020
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A food bank worker distributes goods. A Marketplace-Edison poll found that 44% of Americans over 18 fear being unable to afford food. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
COVID-19

USDA announces food distribution program, but will it help farmers?

Jasmine Garsd May 11, 2020
A food bank worker distributes goods. A Marketplace-Edison poll found that 44% of Americans over 18 fear being unable to afford food. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Share Now on:
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William Thiele’s family works on a dairy farm in west Pennsylvania.

With many schools and restaurants closed, the company they sell milk to told them: you gotta slash production by 15% “They told us, ‘You have to get rid of the milk, somehow, some way.’ “

Thiele says that in the 152 years his family has owned the farm, this is the first time it has had to dump milk.

The irony is, it comes at a time when 44 percent of Americans over 18 are afraid they will not be able to afford food. That’s according to a recent poll by Marketplace-Edison.

Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that starting this week, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will begin distributing $1.2 billion in surplus food to communities across the country. Professor Daniel Sumner of the University of California, Davis, says the program aims to assist those who might not be covered by other programs, like food stamps. “They are homeless or they’re not eligible in other ways. One of the attempts here is to get food to the poorest, most vulnerable people.”

But will it help farmers? Professor Andrew Novakovic of Cornell University says it depends on what they produce. “The only thing USDA will subsidize in these boxes is dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and canned pork and chicken.”

It’s stuff that can go easily from farm to box to nonprofit to a family in need. Some farmers will be out of luck. If your farm produces beef or eggs, for example, “you’re not represented in that,” Novakovic said.

Thiele got some good news this morning, though. The company he sells milk to was selected to participate in the Farmers to Families program.

And that means he might be able sell it more of his milk.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

Which states are reopening?

Many states have started to relax the restrictions put in place in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although social-distancing measures still hold virtually everywhere in the country, more than half of states have started to phase out stay-at-home orders and phase in business reopenings. Others, like New York, are on slower timelines.

Is it worth applying for a job right now?

It never hurts to look, but as unemployment reaches levels last seen during the Great Depression and most available jobs are in places that carry risks like the supermarket or warehouses, it isn’t a bad idea to sit tight either, if you can.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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