NEW YORK (WETM) — U.S. Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand announced legislation on Monday that will provide economic relief to family farms amid the coronavirus outbreak.
During an over the phone interview, Sen. Gillibrand told 18 News more about the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act.
“I’ve heard from a lot of our producers around the state—from our dairy farmers, as well as our fruits and vegetable producers—that some of their normal customers can’t actually deliver,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “So what we’re trying to do is make sure that these farms can remain hold during this crisis.”
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Gillibrand said family farms saw minimal small business relief under the CARES Act and struggle to access emergency federal farm aid allocated to USDA. The legislation will provide economic relief for small farmers suffering from massive financial losses due to reduced demand and supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a $9 billion bill that allows any small farmer in the country who has debt to be able to have debt forgiveness,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “It’s a one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000 across all types of USDA-FSA loans, to get debt relief so they can stay in business and not have to close.”
In addition to announcing the Relief for America’s Small Farmer’s Act, Sen. Gillibrand is also calling on the administration to support dairy producers and provide assistance under the CARES Act for local food producers who have experienced losses due to the outbreak.
“New York farmers are struggling and the coronavirus outbreak has pushed many into insurmountable debt,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “The CARES Act does not go far enough to sustain small farms through this difficult time. They need urgent and direct loan forgiveness so they can continue maintaining operations, paying their workers, and keeping food on Americans’ tables.”
With the belief that the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act will alleviate debt, keep farms open, and fortify the nation’s food supply, Sen. Gillibrand said she will fight to include the legislation in an upcoming stimulus package to make certain that farmers are not left behind.
Sen. Gillibrand also spoke to 18 News about the federal government’s level of coronavirus preparedness. She said the U.S. didn’t have enough ventilators or masks in the stockpile and didn’t have the ability to create a federalized medical supply chain.
“President Trump has been unwilling to really use the Defense Production Act effectively to create that supply chain for personal protective equipment like masks, and medical equipment like ventilators,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “So now we’re struggling to get the resources we need to the hospitals that need them now. Most of our front line workers don’t even have PPE. Grocery store clerks, some don’t have it. People at pharmacies don’t have it. Some nurses are being asked to reuse their face masks and other gear, as opposed to having the amount that they actually need to do their job.”
Full text of the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act can be found here.