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August 07, 2020

Trone hosts virtual roundtable with local agricultural leaders to discuss impact of COVID-19

GAITHERSBURG — As the agricultural industry feels the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Rep David Trone recently hosted a virtual roundtable to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector.

This roundtable comes as Maryland’s agricultural industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. The virtual roundtable featured representatives from the Maryland Farm Bureau and each of the five counties in Maryland’s Sixth District.

“The agricultural industry is a central part of Maryland’s economy, and the pandemic has hit rural Maryland hard,” said Trone, D-Md. “Today, I heard from industry leaders about what they’re experiencing on the ground and what the federal government must do to help. We need to pass the Heroes Act to help keep this industry afloat not only in our state, but across the country.”

On May 15, Trone voted in favor of the HEROES Act, which includes provisions to support rural America and the agricultural industry through the pandemic. These provisions include:

— Emergency assistance to producers of depopulated market-ready livestock: The bill provides payments for livestock and poultry that are depopulated due to processing plant shut-downs and back-ups because of the health emergency

— Emergency Dairy Donation Program: $500 million to pay for milk to be processed into dairy products and donated to non-profit entities (food banks, feeding programs, etc.).

— Supplemental Margin Coverage: The bill provides necessary cash flow assistance to small- and mid-sized dairies that have grown over the last seven years by establishing supplemental margin coverage based on the difference between 2019 actual production and Dairy Margin Coverage production history.

— Dairy Recourse Loan Program: $500 million for USDA to carry out a recourse loan program to make purchases of dairy products from dairy processors, packagers, merchants, marketers, wholesalers, and distributors.

— Specialty Crop Block Grant Program: $100 million in additional funding to address COVID-19 specialty crop supply chain issues at the state level via the farm bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

— Local Agriculture Market Program: $50 million in additional funding to support local farmers, farmers markets, and other local food outlets who are impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions through the farm bill’s LAMP program. The bill temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds.

— Block grants to states for existing farm stress programs: $28 million to be distributed as block grants to state departments of agriculture for use to support existing farm stress programs.

— Producer payments for COVID-19 losses: $16.5 billion for direct payments to agricultural producers whose commodities were impacted by market disruptions due to the COVID-19 emergency.

— Farm to Food Bank program: The bill provides $25 million for the Farm to Food Bank program and makes program improvements for these additional funds. The funds may be used to cover up to 100 percent of harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation costs for commodities donated to food banks. Encourages prioritization of dairy, meat, poultry and specialty crops.

— Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program: provides additional administrative flexibilities for the SFMNP, including that at the request of a state, the secretary may waive any action that prevents the quick delivery of food to seniors through this program.