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AG CHAIN Act benefits essential food industry workers

Bill provides federal tax holiday and payroll tax exemption for all essential employees in food and ag industries.

Reps. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R., Pa.) and Dwight Evans (D., Pa.) introduced the Assistance & Gratitude for Coronavirus Heroes in Agribusiness Who Are Invaluable to the Nation (AG CHAIN) Act. The bill is an extension of the previously introduced GROCER Act and would provide a federal tax holiday and a payroll tax exemption for all essential employees in the food and agriculture industry as defined by recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidance.

These provisions would encompass Feb. 15 to June 15, 2020, for individuals making less than $75,000 annually. The bill would also provide discretion to the U.S. Department of Treasury to extend this benefit for an additional three months.

"Food security is national security, and employees in the supply chain are working overtime to ensure crops are harvested, shelves and coolers are stocked and Americans have food on the table,” Thompson said. "These men and women provide a critical service day in and day out, and we are particularly grateful for their commitment to feeding and fueling the nation as we continue to address the challenges associated with COVID-19."

Evans added, “We need to help the workers who are keeping America fed during this crisis. This bipartisan bill would complement our proposed GROCER Act by helping even more of the people who are doing just that, and I believe it’s something that most of us should be able to agree on."

The bill also has widespread support from groups representing the food industry.

“The essential men and women working on the front lines every day in our food industry — despite the challenges posed by coronavirus — deserve the recognition and support of the federal government in these trying times," said Dr. Michael Dykes, president and chief executive officer of the International Dairy Foods Assn. "That’s why we urge members of Congress to lend their bipartisan support to the bill sponsored by Congressmen Thompson and Evans, which would provide targeted financial relief to food industry workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. The AG CHAIN Act will ensure that these workers get more than a pat on the back for their invaluable efforts.”

Henry Armour, president and CEO of the National Association of Convenience Stores, said convenience store associates continue to serve their communities on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis by providing the food, fuel and necessities required by their customers, as they do through many types of crisis. "The AG CHAIN Act is an appropriate way for the federal government to recognize these retail heroes. I particularly appreciate that this bill builds on previous efforts by providing benefits to the over 1 million part-time workers filling these vital roles as well," Armour said in a statement.

The National Grocers Assn. said it supports the new legislation recognizing the extraordinary service of America’s frontline food and agriculture workers. Chris Jones, senior vice president of government relations and counsel for the association, said, "Independent grocers have gone to great lengths to protect their employees and reward them for their tireless efforts and service to their communities. The AG CHAIN Act honors these supermarket superheroes and will help boost the income of workers that show up for work every day.”

“Supermarket workers and our supply chain partners remain on the job and are truly essential to America’s coronavirus response," said Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer of FMI – the Food Industry Assn. "The AG CHAIN Act of 2020 recognizes the efforts of the food industry and gives our frontline associates well-deserved tax relief for their commitment to ensuring that grocery stores are open and stocked during this national emergency. FMI greatly appreciates Rep. Thompson and Rep. Evans’ leadership on this important legislation.”

Robb MacKie, president and CEO of the American Bakers Assn., said, “Working each day during this emergency presents extraordinary challenges, and bakery employees and their suppliers are rising to the occasion. America should demonstrate its gratitude to these selfless critical-infrastructure employees who continue to show up every day to feed their communities and country. They have earned well-deserved tax relief for their commitment during this pandemic."

Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Assn., added, “Restaurants are cornerstones in their communities, but they cannot serve this role without the support of the entire food, agriculture and supply chain. The AG CHAIN act provides an important benefit to these essential food and agriculture workers, including restaurant workers. We’re proud to support this bill, which helps ensure we can continue feeding our communities and supporting our supply chain partners.”

"Travel center employees have been unwavering in their commitment to our industry and America's truck drivers since the nation first began grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic more than eight weeks ago,” said Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators. “Their dedication ensures that truck stops and travel plazas remain open 24 hours per day and that truck drivers have places to eat and rest throughout the country.”

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