Senators Stabenow, Peters Urge COVID-19 Relief for Michigan Farmers

In order to help protect the food supply, Senators make recommendations on how to best support Michigan farmers

Monday, April 13, 2020

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide relief to Michigan farmers and keep families supplied with food during the COVID-19 crisis.


“Michigan farmers have been hit hard by this global pandemic and will continue to struggle with the disruptions caused by this disease,” wrote the Senators. “Our farmers need assistance during this crisis as they continue to work every day to prevent shortages and keep us supplied with food.”


In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Stabenow and Peters secured $9.5 billion for COVID-19 disaster assistance, including targeted funding for specialty crops, local food, dairy, and livestock producers. The Senators urged the USDA to consider the unique needs of Michigan farmers and made recommendations on how to distribute the relief. The Senators also encouraged USDA to provide additional flexibility for farmers repaying farm loans and urged extended deadlines for other programs. 


Fruit, vegetable, and nursery growers: The produce industry is facing $5 billion in losses nationwide as a result of COVID-19, and nursery crop producers in Michigan are also facing significant financial losses. Michigan specialty crop growers have been affected by closures of restaurants, challenges redirecting products to retail, and increased production costs, on top of existing trade challenges. The Senators asked USDA to provide direct assistance to specialty crop farmers facing losses and purchase fruit and vegetables to provide to food banks.


Dairy farmers: After five years of economic instability, the pandemic has plummeted markets and reduced demand for dairy products used in food service. Because cows need to be milked every day, dairy farmers, processors, and their essential workers have to continue production. The Senators urged USDA to improve risk protection, provide direct assistance to dairy farmers, purchase excess products, and incentivize farmers to donate milk they are unable to sell.


Local food producers: Local food economies are facing $1.1 billion in losses this year nationwide. Michigan farmers who sell their products locally have experienced severe disruptions due to closures of restaurants, schools, and farmers markets. The Senators asked for direct assistance for producers who supply local food, and encouraged the USDA to develop a specific reimbursement program for revenue losses. 


Livestock and poultry farmers: Michigan’s livestock and poultry producers are experiencing market volatility, supply chain shifts, and challenges with processing-capacity. The Senators recommended direct assistance for Michigan beef, pork, poultry, and other livestock producers to help offset the market impacts of COVID-19.


The full letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is available here.