Joint Press Release – LiveWell Colorado, National Young Farmers Coalition, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

(Denver, Colorado) – Over 60 organizations across Colorado have come together to tell federal legislators that if we want to sustain our communities through COVID-19, people must be able to access healthy food, and our farm and food systems will not be able to meet this demand without support.

This action is spurred by the $1 trillion stimulus package released on July 27, 2020 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, meant to respond to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current version of the Act does not go far enough – or even close at all – to ensure that farmers, ranchers, essential farm and food system workers, and the food and farm businesses that make up local and regional food systems get the support they need to continue feeding our communities, paying their employees, and responding rapidly to emergency needs.

Across key local and regional markets in Colorado alone, economists estimated a minimum $3.9 million decline in sales from March to May 2020. Statewide responses have come together, including the Colorado Farm & Food Systems Response Fund, which distributed $370,000 to producers and food hubs; however, more than 355 applications were received, totaling over $2.6M in requests, illustrating how much more need there is.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has triggered enormous and inequitable impacts to our nation’s farm and food systems. As the number of cases continues to rise, it is clear that major action is needed to alleviate these impacts and build toward long-term recovery. Unfortunately, many have been left out of current USDA relief, including young and female farmers and ranchers, and farmers and ranchers who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color (BIPOC).

Any government aid has been nothing but time, energy, tears, and frustration.  None of the programs work for us – last year’s payroll included lots of H2A employees (PPP), we didn’t have any employees on January 1, 2020 (EIDL). -Colorado Producer

Now more than ever the federal government must allocate resources to turn this around. The next pandemic aid package presents an opportunity to protect Colorado’s food systems and to ensure local farms, processors, retailers, and others are able to survive and help respond to the ongoing COVID-19 economic recession.

Specifically, the next relief package must support robust regional food systems by:

  • Providing immediate relief to essential food and farm workers who are at high risk of infection through legislation such as such as S4042 “Frontline At-Risk Manual (FARM) Laborers Protection Act” and S3609 “Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act”
  • Enhancing support for small-scale, local producers and food systems so they may continue to meet community food needs through programs such as the S4202/HR7535 “Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020” and S3840 “Food Supply Protection Act of 2020” and S3918 “Paycheck Protection for Producers Act”

We urge legislators to act now as the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers, workers, and families are on the line. For more information and to review the over 60 organizations that have signed on to Colorado’s shared platform for Healthy Families, Farms, and Communities, read the platform here or contact David Hutabarat at davidhutabarat@livewellcolorado.org. 

About Our Organizations        

LiveWell Colorado: LiveWell Colorado is a Colorado non-profit organized in 2008. LiveWell operates statewide to transform Colorado’s food system – from production to consumption. Through community partnerships, statewide initiatives, and advocacy, LiveWell shifts our food system so that ALL Coloradans have access to nutritious food. LiveWell especially focuses on increasing the availability of incentives that allows equitable access to purchase healthy, locally grown food, increasing the ability of institutions to procure and prepare healthy food, building coalitions with others similarly working to shift our food system, and advocating for policies that align with these goals. Visit LiveWell at www.livewellcolorado.org and on Facebook.

National Young Farmers Coalition: The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a national grassroots network of young farmers and ranchers fighting for a brighter, more equitable future for U.S. agriculture. Visit Young Farmers on the web at www.youngfarmers.org, and on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union: Founded in 1907, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union has worked for over a century for justice and inclusion for family farm and ranch families and their communities in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. As a general farm organization, RMFU members represent the entire variety of agriculture in our region, from small-scale production in urban communities to traditional farms and livestock operations across the Intermountain West. Just as importantly, we understand how agriculture is essential to the everyday lives of all Americans, and why all our lives depend on agriculture. Visit www.rmfu.org for more information.