Local farmers need federal support, Pingree says

As the spread of the novel coronavirus shutters businesses, schools, and restaurants, farmers who sell locally and regionally need support from the federal government, said Rep. Chellie Pingree in a letter sent Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

As FERN reported on Monday, the pandemic has already begun to reduce attendance at some farmers markets, causing some farmers to worry about whether they can stay in business. Rep. Pingree urged Pelosi to consider federal supports for those farmers as the government works to pass an emergency coronavirus bill.

“Social distancing and restrictions on public gatherings are decreasing attendance at farmers’ markets and forcing some farmers’ markets to close altogether. This jeopardizes a vital income source for farmers that sell their products directly to consumers,” Pingree wrote. “Additionally, farmers are losing institutional markets as schools and universities close their doors.”

Farmers who sell locally or regionally should be supported with emergency payments, just as farmers who sell to commodity markets were supported during the trade war with China, Pingree wrote. She also called for the suspension of Farm Service Agency loan payments.