Many of us are beginning to question the origins of our food as grocery store products dwindle and their shelves remain un-stocked. Agriculture has consistently been Montana’s leading industry with a $4.6 billion impact in 2015. But social distancing, the closure of schools, restaurants, and farmers markets give cause for increasing concern surrounding the impact of the outbreak on Montana’s small and mid-sized farms. In a new report, economists have projected a decline in farmers’ sales of up to $689 million and a payroll decline of $103 million, leading to a possible $1.3-billion hit to the general US economy from March to May of 2020. In the face of these coming losses, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition encourages consumers “to recognize the unique needs of American small and mid-sized farmers who engage in direct marketing and farm-to-school sales, whose products are essential to the public’s health, that will face disrupted and restricted market access and will not be supported by the conventional farm safety net – commodity support programs and crop insurance.” We encourage you to take a look at the following resources to ensure that Montanan farmers, especially those that deliver their products through local and regional markets rather than traditional commodity markets, continue to thrive in the midst of this sobering calamity.
- ATTRA Tips for Selling on the Internet
- Cornell: Selling Real Farm Product in the Virtual Marketplace
- Farm to Cafeteria Institution Database
- Join Future Harvest’s Group Call on COVID19 for Farmers
- Join the American Farmland Trust’s Group Call on New Programs to Address COVID19’s Impacts
- Services for online sales: Open Food Network, Local Food Marketplace, Harvie, Barn2Door
For Consumers and Food Service
- Western Montana Growers’ Coop CSA Sign Up
- Farm to Cafeteria Producer Database
- Vegetable Gardening for Beginners
- COVID19 and Food Safety
- Is Coronavirus a Concern at Grocery Stores?
- Food Service Safety Precautions for School Nutrition Programs
- Serving Students School Meals During COVID19
- Farm to Grocery: Meet the Buyers (August 2020)
- Montana Farm to School Summit (September 2020)
- Call on Congress to ensure the following be included in the economic stimulus bill now being developed (NSAC):
- Farm-to-School Markets: Direct the USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (62 Stat.1070; 15 U.S.C. 714) related to income stabilization to develop an emergency disaster payment for small and beginning farmers selling fresh and minimally processed food to local and regional schools who have lost markets due to school closures precipitated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Farmers Markets: Direct the USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (62 Stat.1070; 15 U.S.C. 714) related to income stabilization to develop an emergency disaster payment to small and beginning farmers selling fresh and minimally processed food through direct marketing channels such as farmers markets that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Local Processing of Excess Product: Direct the USDA to utilize the authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (62 Stat.1070; 15 U.S.C. 714) related to income stabilization and commodity distribution to develop an emergency disaster payment to small food hubs and similar processing and intermediary entities to facilitate the processing and storage of excess product displaced from local and regional markets, such as farmers markets and schools. The capacity of the emergency food system to accommodate large quantities of produce may be limited and will require additional support to ensure that donated products can be processed, stored, and distributed to those communities most in need.