Legislation aimed at helping farmers, good banks makes sense

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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for food for those who have lost income is great, but the disruption in the supply chain has made meeting that need far more difficult.

Bipartisan legislation in Congress sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Issaquah, is meant to provide federal funding to states to purchase surplus crops from small- and medium-sized farms that can be distributed to food banks and other food-assistance programs.

The Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6725) makes a great deal of sense. It will not just make more food available for those in need, but it will also be a boon for farmers who have surplus crops with no easy access to markets to sell them. If crops aren’t sold in a timely manner, they become waste.

The Washington State Wire website reports that the proposal calls for a targeted approach to distributing federal funding to buy food from producers who rely on local produce such as farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants and farm-to-school programs.

“Washington farmers help provide food security to Washington state and the world, but right now, they are struggling with oversupply due to the loss of food service and other markets,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Local leaders are going to know best how to help our struggling farmers and meet an important need at our food banks. We need to direct food-purchasing funding to the state so they can be strategic in these efforts, and that’s what this legislation will do.”

Schrier, who is a pediatrician, added, “It makes sense to bridge this divide and put these two together to make sure that we support our family farms while also feeding our communities.”

Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn.

These proposals have the support of several groups in and outside of Washington state, according to the wire website. This includes Feeding America, Northwest Harvest, Washington State Farm Bureau, Washington State Potato Commission and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The sooner this legislation becomes law — and the funding begins boosting local farms and community food banks — the better it will be for the region and, ultimately, the nation.

Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank reports that it is providing food weekly to about 2,700 people or 5% of Walla Walla County’s population.

The need for the Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act is clear.