Lawmakers look to fix gaps in the food supply chain to better help small businesses

COVID-19 exposed the gaps in the food supply chain so lawmakers are looking for solutions. House Small Business Committee chairwoman Nydia Velazquez says that small businesses are struggling to recover.

“Three out of four businesses are experiencing a decrease in revenue since March and over half of small business are concerned about being force to close,” she said. “Small businesses across the food supply chain system have been impacted.”

Jimmy Wright, representing the National Grocers Association, says that small stores face more product shortages because of competition from big box stores. They want to see stronger antitrust action.

“The effect of buyer power is not only felt by small grocers but it harms consumers that live in rural areas service by independents,” Wright said. “We need strong enforcement of antitrust laws to ensure our ability to compete for the benefit of all Americans.”

It is an idea shared by the livestock industry. National Farmers Union’s Rob Larew says that the RAMP UP Act could help break up packing plant concentration.

“Really, what we are talking about here is taking ourselves from what is a very concentrated, arguably a very efficient system, but one that has really no resilience built into it,” Larew said. “The RAMP UP Act you mentioned is a very important step to shift ourselves from a very concentrated market place to one that is much more local and regional based, building in more system and options for producers.”

Adapting to new consumer shopping habits is another suggestion from Wright to help ensure consumers have access to food during tough times.

He states, “For independents to be able to offer online SNAP would be a tremendous asset to the customers that either cannot get to the store or choose not to come to the store during the pandemic.”

He says that only Amazon, Walmart, and a few independent location have been able to implement technology needed to take SNAP online.