COVID-19

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

Jasmine Garsd May 11, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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
HTML EMBED:
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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

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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