54 Groups Urge U.S. Congress To Use COVID-19 Stimulus Funds To Support Small To Mid-Sized Farmers Producing Plant-Based Foods; Not Factory Farms

Fifty-Four organizations recently sent a letter to U.S. Congress urging that “Financial assistance should be directed toward independent, small, and mid-size farmers producing fruits, vegetables, and other climate-compatible plant-based foods, and to prohibit industrial animal agriculture operations and corporate parents from receiving any COVID-19 bailout funding.”

The letter noted that industrial animal agriculture is a major pollution source and “a significant contributor to climate disruption,” urging lawmakers to oppose efforts to waive environmental regulations for big meat and dairy operations during the pandemic.

“As Congress turns its attention to investing in jobs and economic health, it must recognize the need to rebuild and grow local sustainable food systems to support that vision. By investing in people and infrastructure to support these localized food systems, Congress can begin to improve food security, sustainability, health, and safety, as well as help address climate change,” stated the letter.

“The health of people must come first, but, as agricultural relief funds are dispersed and future stimulus packages negotiated, we urge you to ensure that short-term assistance and long-term security continue to benefit people and communities, not multinational corporations and polluting agribusinesses.”

“COVID-19 stimulus packages shouldn’t be used as yet another bailout for industrial animal agriculture,” Stephanie Feldstein, Director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Population and Sustainability Program said in a statement. “Polluting factory farms threaten our food security and degrade the environment. Congress must not hand this destructive, unsustainable industry another blank check.”

Signed into law on March 26th, the $2 trillion dollar Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) stimulus package includes $23.5 billion for agriculture.

In their letter, the groups pressed Congress to direct these funds toward small and mid-size farmers producing fruits, vegetables, and other climate-compatible plant-based foods.

Prior relief efforts, such as the $28 billion in subsidies that the Trump administration doled out last year during its trade war with China, have disproportionately benefited industrial meat and dairy farmers. These subsidies, and the lack of equal funding for small farmers, are now under investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Today’s letter also urged Congress not to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be used as an excuse by industrial agriculture to relax existing environmental protection laws such as The Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Citing the pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it will stop enforcing many environmental protection rules; a move the Center and many other groups oppose.

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