Trump, Biden discuss Food System Resilience in Farm Bureau survey


President Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, each took time to respond to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s survey on agriculture issues.

Question from the American Farm Bureau: The COVID-19 pandemic awakened many Americans to the realization that stocked grocery shelves should not be taken for granted. Farmers and ranchers experienced enormous losses as the food supply chain adapted to changing demands and pandemic impacts. Agriculture’s role in our national security became much clearer to many. As president, what investments and/or policies would you support to ensure the resiliency of our food system?

Trump: Our country was invaded by an invisible enemy in a way that none of us could have imagined when President Trump met with you at your annual convention in Austin back in January. From the very beginning of the pandemic the Trump/Pence Administration worked to ensure that we protected our nation’s food supply, the critical infrastructure, and the workers who support the entire supply chain.

Our ag and food value chain is the envy of the world, but faced significant challenges during the COVID outbreak as retail and food service delivery mechanisms were upended almost overnight through the rapid closures our country faced in March.

On March 19, 2020, the Trump/Pence Administration released its list of designated critical infrastructure that exempted the entire food and agriculture production system from any quarantine or stay at home requirements. This exemption list became the guide that was used by every Governor in every state to determine closures. Without this guidance, farmers most likely would not have gotten the products they needed for spring planting and each state’s mandatory closure requirement would have been different for the farmer and all of their suppliers.

On April 17th, the Trump/Pence Administration announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program which committed up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by market disruptions and committed an additional $3 billion for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The Farmers to Family Food Box Program has been an innovative program that acquired perishable fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat products that had been impacted by school, restaurant and other food service customers, and distributed those nutritious products to Americans most in need. The Administration has distributed over 50 million of these boxes. The program has accomplished the goals of moving excess product, stabilizing the market, and getting food to those most in need.

On April 28th, the Trump/Pence administration issued an executive order that deployed the Defense Production Act for our meat packing industry. This act made it clear meatpacking plants that met OSHA and CDC guidelines should remain open. It was critical that we kept meat in our grocery stores during this national crisis, and it was critical for our farmers and ranchers that these facilities remained opened to process animals that were ready for market. There were many stories in the spring about worst case scenarios in the meat and poultry sectors, and while these were trying times, through strong and clear actions we were able to quickly work to stabilize the meat production sector.

Throughout this crisis, the Trump/Pence Administration has engaged heavily with leaders in the industry at every point in the supply chain. The Vice President’s task force has in addition to health experts, also included the Secretary of Agriculture, as food/agriculture issues remain one of the critical aspects of any national crisis response.

Another critical aspect of our food supply system is our nation’s public feeding programs. Throughout the pandemic the Trump/Pence Administration has worked to ensure maximum flexibility to states as they administer these programs, from the School Meal program, to SNAP benefits, we have ensured that the men, women, and children most vulnerable to the impacts of this pandemic both from health and economic impact continue to have access to the food they need.

Thankfully, throughout this crisis, we never had a “food supply” problem, we had a highly efficient, safe, and affordable ag and food value chain that was and remains the envy of the world. The strength of that value chain was bent in ways it never had before, but it never broke, and it has been the privilege of the Trump/Pence Administration to leverage government resources and coordination capabilities to ensure our private sector was able to continue meeting the food needs of all Americans.

Biden: In this campaign, I’ve proposed a series of plans known as our “Build Back Better” agenda. The pandemic has laid bare some unacceptable truths about how our economy does not welcome all Americans as full participants. This is no time to just build back to the way things were before, with the old economy’s structural weaknesses and inequalities still in place. This is the moment to imagine and build a new American economy for our families and the next generation.

The Biden-Harris Plan to build modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future plans features an investment in sustainable agriculture and conservation. Our family farmers and ranchers were already fighting an uphill battle because of Trump’s irresponsible trade policies and consistent siding with oil lobbyists over American growers, but COVID-19 has placed new pressures on that sector and the rural economies it sustains. We will bring back America’s advantage in agriculture, create jobs, and build a bright future for rural communities by investing in the next generation of agriculture and conservation; providing opportunities to new farmers and ranchers, including returning veterans and minorities, to enter the economy; and making it easier to pass farms and ranches onto the next generation. We will also help farmers leverage new technologies, techniques, and equipment to increase productivity and profit – including by providing low-cost finance for the transition to new equipment and methods, funding research and development in precision agriculture and new crops, and establishing a new voluntary carbon farming market that rewards farmers for the carbon they sequester on their land and the greenhouse gas emission reductions, including from methane, that they secure. These efforts to partner with farmers will help them tap into new income streams as they tackle the challenge of sequestering carbon, reducing emissions, and continue their track record as global leaders in agricultural innovation. Instead of making things harder for farmers, we will stand with them as they fight against the threats of climate change, droughts, flooding and extreme weather, while partnering with them to make American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions.

We also will invest in diverse farmers to make our agriculture sector stronger and more resilient. American agriculture is strong in part because of our incredible range of farm types and sizes — and we’ve got to make sure that anyone who wants to serve our country as a farmer can get assistance from USDA. A Biden-Harris Administration will ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture ends historical discrimination against Black farmers in federal farm programs and that all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers have access to programs that support their family farms.

And we will strengthen antitrust enforcement, including in the farm and food production industry. Americans are hurt by increasing market concentration in the food industry. The Biden-Harris Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.

You can see each candidates answers to other agriculture-related questions below:

Food System Resiliency
Farm Policy Programs
International Trade
Tax Policy
Regulatory Reform
Endangered Species Act
Clean Water
Rural Life and Health
Agricultural Labor
Sustainability and Climate Change