NEWS: Sanders Cosponsors The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act

BURLINGTON, June 11 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Thursday joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in introducing The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, to provide economic relief for small farmers suffering from massive financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Small farms in Vermont and across the nation struggled to access emergency federal farm aid and received minimal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) benefits at a time when the supply chain was devastated by school and restaurant closures. The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act will fortify the nation’s food supply and provide direct relief to alleviate crippling debt for the nation’s most vulnerable farmers. The bill provides a one-year window to apply for debt relief and will keep farmers operating for at least two years after receiving loan forgiveness.

“In my home state of Vermont and across the country, small farms are the lifeblood of our economies, our communities, our culture, and our history,” said Sen. Sanders. “And yet, it has become harder and harder for the small farmer to get by. Even before the pandemic added unprecedented strain and crushing challenges, small farms were overwhelmed with debt and going out of business at alarming rates. I am proud to cosponsor the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, which would provide financial relief to small farmers suffering from the devastating economic harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Providing debt relief will go a long way to help these farmers stay afloat and keep our rural communities strong and vibrant.”

Vermont has over six thousand farms, and over 80% of these are small—grossing less than $100,000 in sales annually. Many small farms, especially in Vermont’s dairy industry, continue to go out of business. A staggering 40% of dairy farms closed between 2012 and 2021, and small dairy farms were the vast majority of these losses. In the last six months alone, Vermont lost 51 dairy farms—a rate so severe it will be difficult to sustain our vibrant agricultural landscape into the future unless we find ways to support small farms now.

“After more than a year of grappling with financial hardship caused by the pandemic, many of New York’s 30,000 farmers and farmers across the country need urgent and direct loan forgiveness to alleviate their debt and keep operations running,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “While Congress has passed many laws since the beginning of the pandemic to aid our nation’s farmers, they simply did not go far enough to sustain small farmers through this difficult time; farmers need urgent and direct loan forgiveness so they can pay their workers, upgrade equipment, and keep food on American tables. I will fight to include this legislation in the upcoming infrastructure package to make certain our farmers are not left behind.” 

Original cosponsors of this bill also include Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The House companion bill was introduced by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.)

The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act has been endorsed by over 100 leading farm and agriculture advocacy organizations, including: National Family Farm Coalition, Rural Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA), National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, and Farm Aid.

Read the text of the bill here
Read the bill summary here.