While speaking at the Flavor First Growers & Packers facility in North Carolina on Monday, President Donald Trump announced an additional $1 billion to fund the Farmers to Families Food Box program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Trump said when the coronavirus pandemic “struck our nation, many farmers had no place to send their crops or livestock. At the same time, families across the country were in need of groceries. They wanted to eat well.”
The Flavor First Growers & Packers facility packs roughly 7,000 boxes a week for the COVID-19 food aid program, and volunteers at Baptists on Mission shipped boxes to more than 200 pickup locations across North Carolina.
“I’m so proud of the people of USDA for designing this program in a very short period of time -- a record period of time,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said about the food box program.
Perdue stated that a contract like this typically would have taken longer than the COVID-19 pandemic lasted, “but we got it done because I knew you wanted to take care of those forgotten people: the farmers who were suffering, the distributors who were suffering with their market loss, but most importantly, those people whose jobs had been going away, and they were shut down and lost their jobs and their families needed food.”
The initial Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized $3 billion for the food box program, and Perdue said Trump authorized another $1 billion for the program. So far, the program has delivered millions of boxes of fresh produce, milk, meat and dairy products to those who are vulnerable. A USDA spokesman shared that as of Aug. 25, 71,859,509 boxes had been delivered totaling $1,993,414,259.07.
“Because of the COVID crisis, many families across our state are struggling,” Richard Brunson, executive director of Baptists on Mission, said. “They’re struggling to meet basic needs, including putting food on the table. Being involved in the Farmers to Families Food Box program has given me a much greater appreciation for our farmers and what they do to feed us all. They’re some of our most essential workers.”
In related news, 12 national, regional and state groups sent a letter to Perdue requesting that USDA prioritize domestic meat and meat processors. The letter states that USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service acknowledged that a regulatory loophole allows imported beef to be labeled as "Product of the U.S.A.," and the organizations are concerned that the current regulations for beef and pork products could lead to federal aid dollars being misspent on imported foreign goods.
The letter asks USDA to prioritize applicants that have demonstrated established relationships with independent regional meat processors to fill their orders.
Trump also touted the $34 billion in payments to farmers. “Nobody has ever seen numbers like this, and it was really by putting tariffs on a place that treated us very, very badly,” he said. “So, our farmers will never be tormented again.”
Trump additionally discussed cutting regulations, including the death tax, noting that “we’ve slashed regulations, cut the death tax, estate tax -- got rid of it for the small farms and businesses -- provided direct assistance to farmers unfairly targeted by China and secured fair and reciprocal trade deals to boost American agricultural import and exports.”