Maine Delegation Pushes USDA Again to Fix Shortcomings of Farmers to Families Program to Ensure In-State Contractors and Farmers Can Benefit From Fourth Round of Funding
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today requesting fixes to the Farmers to Families Food Box Program to ensure Maine-based contractors have a fair shot to be selected when the fourth round contracts are awarded. No companies in Maine were chosen by USDA to be suppliers in the first or third tranche of funding for the Farmers to Families Food Box program.
“In the first round of the Farmers to Families program announced in April, no Maine-based contractors were selected and the coverage of the program was extremely limited within the state. Consequently, there was a significant missed opportunity for USDA to benefit Maine’s farmers, food insecure families, and small businesses at a time when they were struggling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Maine lawmakers wrote in their letter to USDA.
“We appreciate that you worked to address the concerns raised in our letters dated May 29 and June 18 and ultimately included two Maine-based contractors in the second round of awards. However, we were disappointed that once again no companies in Maine were chosen to supply the third round announced in September. While non-profit partners have received a substantial supply of food boxes from an out-of-state distributor, helping to alleviate hunger among Maine families, the economic impact of the program for farmers and businesses in Maine has been more limited as significant federal support flows to other states,” said the Maine delegation in their letter.
Read the full delegation letter here.
In April, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program was established by USDA using funds from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and CARES Act. Under the program, USDA purchases up to $4 billion of fresh produce, dairy, and meat and distributes these products to food insecure Americans in Farmers to Families Food Boxes.
Maine distributors were left out of the program to begin with, but following advocacy from the Maine delegation, Maine Farmers Exchange in Presque Isle and Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods in Westbrook were awarded USDA contracts in the second round of funding for the program.