Last week, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee, introduced a bill to protect the food supply.
The Food Supply Protection Act is one of many pieces of legislature driven by the COVID pandemic.
Shifts in demand from restaurants and food service to retail and food donations have caused bottlenecks. Stabenow says this bill addresses those challenges in the food supply chain.
“It’s certainly not the fault of the farmers,” she said. “The situation happened where restaurants have been shut down—large, bulk purchasers of food have been temporarily shut down. We have one supply chain that goes to grocery stores and consumers, that’s working fine. The bulk purchase side of things is not.”
Farmers don’t want to dump their products, and Stabenow mentioned the Food Supply Protection Act will prevent that from happening. It will serve as a bridge to take care of communities, such as providing infrastructure grants to food banks and non-profits.
“First of all, it will support the food banks to have more ability to have refrigeration and do what they need to be able to hold more food,” said Stabenow.
Stabenow added this would also provide farmers a way to cover their costs and get their food to consumers.
“As part of that, also create more ways for funding for small- and medium-sized distributors to be able to retool what they do to be able to change the packaging, have transportation costs covered, and also [provide] PPE.”
The ultimate goal is to keep the food supply chains open and prevent another breakdown in the bulk supply chain.
“It’s causing food that’s critically needed by families to be destroyed, not because farmers want it to be, but because they aren’t able to cover the cost,” said Stabenow.
Stabenow has received bipartisan support of the bill. It’s also being backed by more than 40 food and agricultural organizations.