MDARD Director Gary McDowell urges USDA to use federal funds to support Michigan growers, farmers during COVID-19 response

For Immediate Release: April 14, 2020
Media Contact: Jennifer Holton, 517-284-5724

LANSING – As Michigan’s food and farming community was already struggling to overcome the severe weather and low commodity prices from 2019, the COVID-19 global pandemic created even more dire and daunting economic hardships for the state’s farmers, growers, processors and agri-businesses.

Today, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Gary McDowell sent a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to support Michigan when distributing the $14 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation and the $9.5 billion appropriated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Michigan’s farming and agriculture community is facing extraordinary challenges to keep food on the shelves, said McDowell. “We’re grateful for the aid our farmers received when 82 of the state’s 83 counties were declared disasters last year. I am hopeful we can count on USDA’s continued support in these unprecedented times.”

Highlights of McDowell’s letter to Perdue include:

  • Dairy: Michigan dairy producers have seen falling prices and demand fluctuations leading to milk dumping. MDARD is asking USDA to work to ensure farmers have markets for their products and make direct payments to producers.
  • Specialty crops: As a large specialty crop state. From greenhouses and nurseries to cherries and dry beans to apple and asparagus – Michigan grows it all. MDARD supports the idea of a Produce Stabilization Program.
  • Livestock: With consumer demand down, difficulty getting labor, and multiple processing facilities closing, the beef, lamb, pork, and poultry industries are facing increased pressure to stay in business. MDARD is asking for increased market access, possible emergency federal load assistance, and direct payments to producers.
  • Farmer specific need: MDARD is asking for temporary flexibilities on farm loans recently announced by USDA’s Farm Service Agency to be made permanent for the duration of the pandemic response and subsequent economic recovery.

The full letter to Secretary Perdue can be read here.

“Michigan’s food and agriculture industry generates $104.7 billion in total economic activity for the state. Our farmers and producers need USDA’s help to survive this,” added McDowell.

For more information on Michigan’s Covid-19 response, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

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