From the Office of Senator Warnock
Washington, D.C. – Last week at the Senate agriculture committee, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) emphasized the importance of Congress supporting small farmers, including passing the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act — legislation cosponsored by Senator Warnock that will support America’s small farmers through financial relief to mitigate losses suffered due to chain disruptions and lost sales during the coronavirus pandemic.
“USDA must do more to address underlying issues at the Department of Agriculture, and better support our small-scale farmers, the ones I’ve been seeing, all throughout Georgia, who were suffering even more as a result of the pandemic,” Senator Warnock said during the hearing. “There’s also work here for the Congress to do, which is why I’m proud to support legislation like the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, which would boost all of our nation’s small farmers through debt relief, and uplift their operations.”
Small farms received minimal assistance from previous federal pandemic relief efforts and have struggled to access emergency federal farm aid that has been allocated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including multiple rounds of assistance through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. These measures have failed to adequately support small farms and keep them operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act would directly address this crisis and help these farmers get back on their feet by providing a one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000, across three types of USDA FSA loans: Direct Farm Operating, Direct Farm Ownership, and Emergency Loans.
During the Agriculture committee hearing, Senator Warnock reiterated his commitment to Georgia’s rural communities and small farmers, highlighting the concerns shared by many of Georgia’s farmers about the difficulty of accessing assistance through USDA’s Farm Service Agency, particularly for small-scale farmers, marginalized farmers and farmers with limited resources. Senator Warnock urged USDA nominees to do even more to level the playing field and address underlying issues at the USDA that will better support smaller farmers following the pandemic.
To that end, Senator Warnock secured a commitment from Mr. Robert Bonnie, nominee to be USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, that USDA will ramp up community outreach efforts and ensure all farmers can access the host of services USDA offers with a renewed focus on program design and implementation. Senator Warnock also underscored the importance of investing in the expansion of rural broadband services during the hearing, a key move to improve the lives of rural Georgians. Senator Warnock secured an additional commitment from Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small, nominee to be USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development, for USDA to work closely with the state of Georgia on broadband mapping to better identify areas in need of broadband infrastructure.
As the hearing closed, Agriculture committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) thanked Senator Warnock for his dedication to helping small scale farmers and his focus on uplifting the lives of rural communities across the nation.
For more information about the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, visit HERE.