South Jersey Legislators Push to Help Garden State Farmers Amid COVID-19
Farmers across America without schools, hotels and restaurants to buy their food are being forced to dump millions of gallons of milk, mulch produce back into the soil, and smash hundreds of thousands of eggs.
As mandatory shutdowns leave farmers with few options and hundreds of thousands without jobs, lawmakers representing the farming communities from the south and northwest parts of the state are introducing legislation that would allow the state to buy Jersey Fresh produce to donate to non-profits serving the hungry.
“The economic fallout that COVID is creating for our Garden State farmers is devastating,” said Senator Michael Testa (R-1). “With agricultural demand dropping, creating this program will bridge the gap between our farmers who have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and families and children experiencing food insecurity. I encourage the legislature to swiftly act to help give farmers the relief they need and put local and fresh produce on the table for our neighbors in need.”
The measure would create a Department of Agriculture program and appropriate $ 1 million to purchase crops from local farmers and donate the produce to free or reduced meal programs.
“With more than 800,000 people out of work in New Jersey, we know that people can use healthy food now more than ever. Farmers are also unable to move their products like they used to and face a crisis of their own,” said Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-1). “My fellow lawmakers and I are working on a solution that mirrors the efforts on the federal level.”
The USDA recently announced a $19 billion food relief program that will support farmers and ranchers, while feeding hungry Americans during the coronavirus crisis. Three billion would be set aside to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat that will go to organizations that serve those in need.
Testa, McClellan, and Simonsen will be purchasing fruits and vegetables from struggling farms throughout South Jersey to donate to local food banks.
“The message ‘No Farmers, No Food’ could not be more relevant in today’s situation,” added Testa. “If proactive measures aren’t taken, it will be lights out for farmers across South Jersey for harvest seasons to come. We are encouraging local families to buy ‘Jersey Fresh’ to give our farmers a fighting chance.”
“The farmers’ supply chains have been completely upended as businesses and schools across the state are shut down to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” said Assemblyman Erik Simonsen (R-1). “With such a significant drop in profits, they can’t afford to make any changes in their production. We have to do something to help them and the many who are finding themselves in need of food assistance for the first time.”