US NFU hails additional aid for farmers and stronger protections for workers

The US House of Representatives has passed a $3 trillion relief and stimulus bill, shoring up state responses and assistance amid COVID-19
calendar icon 18 May 2020
clock icon 7 minute read

“The HEROES Act would do a great deal to alleviate these pressures. Of particular importance is an additional $16.5 billion in direct support to affected farmers, which should help prevent the closure of thousands of family-owned operations. We are similarly heartened by provisions that would strengthen farmer mental health resources, extend employer-sponsored health care coverage, expand nutrition assistance programmes, and assist biofuel plants. As rural communities cope with widespread unemployment, a growing rate of coronavirus cases, and underfunded medical facilities, all of these changes are urgently important and greatly appreciated.

“There are many other things to like about this bill. For one, it would require long-overdue protections for workers at risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19, including meat plant workers and other food supply chain workers. Far too many of these workers have gotten sick or died in the past several months, which has wreaked havoc on the entire food system. We must do more to keep the people who feed us safe ­– both for their sake and for the sake of our food security.

“Additionally, we are pleased that the HEROES Act designates $25 billion for the US Postal Service, which is currently expected to run out of funding by September. By delivering our mail, bills, paychecks, medication, and ballots at a reasonable rate, USPS provides a vital service to all Americans – but it is particularly important to rural Americans who live in areas that lack reliable broadband access and are too remote to be served by private mail services. The loss of USPS would cut these areas off from the outside world, limiting access to critical resources and potentially preventing participation in the upcoming election.

“Despite its strengths, the HEROES Act is not a cure-all. If anything, this pandemic has revealed significant, underlying flaws in our food system ­– flaws that will continue to rear their ugly heads if we don’t act quickly to address them. While working on this legislation and future legislation, we urge Congress to make meaningful and lasting changes with policies that balance supply with demand, ensure greater competition in the meat industry, and bolster local and regional food systems.”

“The HEROES Act would do a great deal to alleviate these pressures. Of particular importance is an additional $16.5 billion in direct support to affected farmers, which should help prevent the closure of thousands of family-owned operations. We are similarly heartened by provisions that would strengthen farmer mental health resources, extend employer-sponsored health care coverage, expand nutrition assistance programmes, and assist biofuel plants. As rural communities cope with widespread unemployment, a growing rate of coronavirus cases, and underfunded medical facilities, all of these changes are urgently important and greatly appreciated.

“There are many other things to like about this bill. For one, it would require long-overdue protections for workers at risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19, including meat plant workers and other food supply chain workers. Far too many of these workers have gotten sick or died in the past several months, which has wreaked havoc on the entire food system. We must do more to keep the people who feed us safe ­– both for their sake and for the sake of our food security.

“Additionally, we are pleased that the HEROES Act designates $25 billion for the US Postal Service, which is currently expected to run out of funding by September. By delivering our mail, bills, paychecks, medication, and ballots at a reasonable rate, USPS provides a vital service to all Americans – but it is particularly important to rural Americans who live in areas that lack reliable broadband access and are too remote to be served by private mail services. The loss of USPS would cut these areas off from the outside world, limiting access to critical resources and potentially preventing participation in the upcoming election.

“Despite its strengths, the HEROES Act is not a cure-all. If anything, this pandemic has revealed significant, underlying flaws in our food system ­– flaws that will continue to rear their ugly heads if we don’t act quickly to address them. While working on this legislation and future legislation, we urge Congress to make meaningful and lasting changes with policies that balance supply with demand, ensure greater competition in the meat industry, and bolster local and regional food systems.”

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