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Stabenow Legislation to Protect Michigan's Food Supply
Michigan Ag Connection - 05/28/2020

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, introduced legislation to help protect Michigan's food supply after the COVID-19 crisis has put an unprecedented strain on the state's farmers, workers, food banks, and families.

"The COVID-19 crisis has tested the strength of our nation's food supply chain, creating a ripple effect that's harming our families, farmers and workers," said Senator Stabenow. "This bill will help strengthen our food supply by redirecting food to families and helping farmers and processors retool their operations."

The shift in demand from Michigan restaurants and food service to retail and food donations has caused bottlenecks in the supply chain. Meanwhile, outbreaks of COVID-19 in food processing plants have sickened thousands of workers and slowed production across the country. Farmers have struggled to sell their crops, and some have had no choice but to dispose of perfectly good food. At the same time, the price of groceries are rising, and food banks and other human service organizations are experiencing exceptionally high demand.

In addition to advocating for worker protections and increased nutrition assistance benefits, Stabenow authored the Food Supply Protection Act to help fill the gaps in the broken food supply chain, reduce food waste, and help farmers, workers, processors, food banks, and families in need.

The Food Supply Protection Act will:

- Support food banks and non-profits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill will provide infrastructure grants that can be used for additional cold storage and refrigeration, transportation, personal protective equipment, rental costs, and additional use of commercial and community infrastructure.

- Strengthen food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families. Through grants and reimbursements, the bill will support new partnerships to make purchases of excess food and increase donations to food banks, schools, nonprofits. These partnerships will promote innovative collaborations with chefs and restaurants and focus on the needs and creative solutions in local communities. They will allow for a diverse variety of purchases and include many areas and products left out of the USDA's current food box program to ensure more people in need and agricultural producers of all sizes and types can access support.

- Protect workers and retool small and medium-sized food processors. Through grants, loans, and loan guarantees, the bill will support upgrading machinery, temporary cold storage, purchasing personal protective equipment and test kits, and cleaning. This funding will assist farmers and small and medium-sized food processors in protecting their workers and help them cater to new markets so they can continue operations and alleviate bottlenecks in the supply chain.

In addition to Senator Stabenow, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Food Supply Protection Act is supported by over 40 food and agricultural organizations, including the Food Bank Council of Michigan, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Eastern Market, Michigan Milk Producers Association, West Michigan Food Processing Association, Cherry Marketing Institute, the Michigan Vegetable Council, and more.

Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan: "Senator Stabenow has long been a champion of agriculture and our emergency food network, and this legislation is a testament to her leadership in this area. The innovative, collaborative solutions outlined in this bill will support the supply chain and get more food onto the tables of those who are struggling to make ends meet during this unprecedented time."

John Kran, national legislative counsel of the Michigan Farm Bureau: "Michigan Farm Bureau supports Senator Stabenow's introduction of the Food Supply Production Act. COVID-19 has undoubtedly put very unique challenges on consumers, farmers, food banks and processors, creating bottlenecks in the supply chain and making it difficult for farmers to get products to market. This bill will help the food system to continue to operate during these unprecedented times." Chuck Lippstreu, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association: "Ensuring a dependable, functioning food system amid this unprecedented emergency requires creative thinking and collaboration, and the Food Supply Production Act provides new ideas to enhance the federal government's partnership across many critical areas. The Food Supply Production Act will help companies procure the PPE, testing and tools they need to operate, and further amplify the impact of food donations from our industry. Michigan's agribusinesses welcome this new measure to help safeguard worker safety, assist families in need and keep the food supply chain running."

Joe Diglio, president and CEO of the Michigan Milk Producers Association: 'This legislation further builds on the milk donation initiative championed by Senator Stabenow in the 2018 Farm Bill. Senator Stabenow has had a long-standing interest in getting milk into the hands of those who need it and there hasn't been a more critical time than now given increased food insecurity and the unprecedented disruption in the dairy supply chain. We thank Senator Stabenow for efforts to help support food banks that are overwhelmed by high demand and the financial crisis dairy farmers are facing during this pandemic."


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