As the funding stemming from the American Rescue Plan begins to make its way around the nation, many Americans are trying to understand which areas of need that money is going to be directed towards. With almost $2 trillion in aid being dispersed throughout the country, breaking it all down should provide some clarity.
American farmers will be the recipients of roughly $10 billion–and that will seriously address a variety of areas of need –including food purchase and distribution efforts, rural healthcare grants, and educational and financial support for disadvantaged farmers.
One of the largest portions of funding is being allocated for food purchase and redistribution. A total of $3.6 billion, roughly 35 percent of the overall funding for agricultural provisions granted through the relief package, is being delivered to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for specific use in the Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP). This program is one of three that exists under USDA for the purpose of mitigating the economic damage done to American farmers as a result of events outside of their control. These events are generally referring to trade disputes between the United States and economic rivals, where the implementation of tariffs on American produce and meat results in a hard-hit farm industry that necessitates government intervention. While the reduced demand for American farm goods may lead one to believe that this food is simply thrown out, a USDA program called The Emergency Food Assistance Program takes the purchased goods and distributes the large majority along with a network of participating food banks and pantries. These two programs work in tandem to ensure that the integrity of the American food supply chain is maintained in the event of an emergency.
Farmers have been left reeling from the economic damage of the pandemic as well as foreign trade disputes. It is an unfortunate reality that the groups that are often the hardest hit are those from communities that have historically been marginalized on the basis of their race or ethnicity. A portion of the funding will look to address that — relief funds will be directed to a loan forgiveness program and additional monies apportioned for outreach, education, and technical assistance. The funding should make serious strides towards helping an increasingly diverse industry get back on its feet.
The remaining agricultural funding, around $3 billion, is being directed toward a variety of smaller initiatives. USDA’s Office of Food for Peace will receive $800 million. The office launched following the Food for Peace Act of 1954, which was an initiative led by President Eisenhower for the purpose of addressing hunger and poverty around the world. Another $500 million is being administered for rural healthcare efforts, which will go towards improving telehealth capability, bettering access to medical supplies, and expanding rural vaccine distribution infrastructure. What is left, about $500 million, is going to a host of causes including inspection of animals known to carry highly contagious COVID-19 strains like minks and cats, overtime costs for federal inspection of the nation’s smaller meat, poultry, and egg processing facilities, and various administrative costs.