Loeffler Takes Action to Ensure Fair Playing Field for Georgia Farmers
Vows to Continue to Champion Those Who ‘Put Their Businesses on the Line Every Day to Feed America’
ATLANTA, GA – U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, today took action to help ensure a fair playing field for Georgia’s farmers, who have been struggling with unfair trade practices, farm labor, long-awaited disaster relief from Hurricane Michael in 2018 and now a global pandemic that has disrupted supply chains and sent commodity prices below their cost of production.
Loeffler sent a letter to the administration’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud urging him to reschedule a United States Trade Representative (USTR) field hearing that was scheduled to occur in Valdosta, Ga., in April. The hearing, canceled due to COVID-19, was to focus on how foreign trade policy, especially concerns of dumping of imported produce into the U.S. market, threatens domestic farmers’ livelihoods. The full letter is available here.
Loeffler also cosponsored the Defending Domestic Produce Protection Act, which would make it easier for farmers to petition the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate illegal subsidies and dumping of Mexican fruits and vegetables in the U.S. market.
“Farmers have worked tirelessly during this pandemic, and I have not stopped advocating for their needs amid this critical time for our nation’s food security. I grew up the fourth generation on my family’s farm and know firsthand the challenges farmers, ranchers and producers face during even the best of times,” Loeffler said. “Even before coronavirus, Georgia’s fruit, vegetable, pecan, peanut and cotton farmers and forest landowners were faced with several key issues: low commodity prices, trade challenges, farm labor shortages and delayed Hurricane Michael disaster relief. Now, due to COVID-19, trade deals have been slowed, fruit and vegetable prices are down 50-60%, and chicken, cattle and pork producers have been devastated by processing plant challenges. Farmers account for just 2% of America’s population, but 100% of us eat. This pandemic cannot put American agriculture or our food security at risk.
“I commend the work of the United States Department of Agriculture in facilitating the relief for Hurricane Michael. With Georgia’s April 30 application deadline now met, I’m hopeful that Georgia farmers will receive that aid very soon. Especially at this time, the needs of Georgia’s farmers should be treated with the same urgency that has been applied in directing relief to small businesses across our country. I will continue to champion our farmers who put their businesses on the line every day to feed America.”
Last week, Loeffler released the USA Restoring & Igniting the Strength of our Economy (USA RISE) Plan, a framework to reignite our economy. A key pillar of the plan – Grown in the USA – focuses on ensuring relief provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Stability (CARES) Act is adequately addressing the losses incurred by the agriculture sector, holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for fulfilling phase one of President Trump’s trade deal, establishing efficient links between farmers and food banks, and ensuring imports of agriculture products do not crowd out our domestic production of fruit, vegetables and other U.S. crops.
Loeffler, a member of the Senate Chicken Caucus, has requested additional assistance for agriculture producers from the administration during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- After a request from Loeffler, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that agricultural businesses, including farmers and ranchers, are now eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
- Loeffler sent a letter asking SBA to extend lending authority to qualified United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved banks, who often work closely with rural businesses, and to approve new lenders, including nonbank lenders, to give small businesses more options to access loans.
- Loeffler joined 27 senators in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
- Loeffler sent a letter asking for additional clarity on the Paycheck Protection Program for farmers.
- Loeffler sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to support Georgia specialty crop farmers who have been hurt by COVID-19.
- Loeffler joined letters asking USDA to ensure timely economic relief for cotton farmers, blueberry farmers and cattle producers.
- Loeffler joined her colleagues in sending two separate letters to the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State urging the agencies to ensure the H-2 agriculture labor program remains operational amid the COVID-19 crisis as well as urging them to increase flexibility to allow farmers to get the labor they need.