AFT Applauds Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act
American Farmland Trust applauds Congress’ passage of the American Rescue Plan Act. This legislation comes at a time when many Americans, including farmers and ranchers, continue to struggle in the face of the ongoing pandemic. The funding provided to USDA through this legislation will not only serve as vital relief, it will help lay the groundwork for a more equitable and resilient food system.
AFT is especially pleased with the historic and unprecedented support provided for socially disadvantaged farmers within the legislation. USDA’s history of discrimination is well–documented, and inclusion of loan forgiveness marks a key step in addressing a historic wrong. We especially appreciate that the legislation includes funding for the additional tools these farmers need for success, including legal services to work through heirs’ property issues, financial training, and other technical assistance. The legislation also recognizes opportunities to further diversify agriculture, providing pilot projects for land access as well as support for research and scholarships that will produce the next generation of agricultural innovators.
We hope that a portion of the broader relief funding can similarly be used to provide additional support for business technical assistance for farm and food businesses. The Coronavirus pandemic has had substantial, uneven impacts on farm and food businesses across the nation, with some seeing their markets disappear overnight, while others saw demand skyrocket beyond their current capacity. We believe that the pandemic has underscored the need to better equip these businesses—especially small and midscale operations—to capitalize on new opportunities and to help build a food system more resilient to unexpected disruptions. This support will translate into new wealth and new jobs, particularly for rural communities and socially disadvantaged populations.
As an organization, we have also called for additional federal support for state and local governments. With offices across the nation, we have seen firsthand how state and local budget shortfalls are threatening to eliminate or reduce critical agricultural programs such as FarmLinks, purchase of agricultural conservation easement (PACE) programs, and support for conservation practices that sequester carbon and improve water quality. The inclusion of additional funding for state and local pandemic response will help ensure that many of these critical agricultural services remain.
We commend Congress and the Administration on their speedy passage of this critical legislation, and welcome the opportunity to serve as a resource to USDA as they deliver this crucial relief to those who need it most.