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USDA announces $330 million in pandemic assistance

Textile mills and specialty crops will get three-fourths of the $330 million announced by the USDA on Tuesday in a broad-ranging program to help producers and the food supply chain recover from the financial impact of the pandemic. In addition, the package earmarked $75 million in grants to help low-income Americans buy fruits and vegetables.

The USDA also gave advance notice that it would soon implement a program to buy dairy products and donate them to charity to help hungry Americans. The donation program would cost $400 million. The program allows retroactive reimbursements for donations made before the program goes into operation.

Some $169.9 million of the $330 million announced by USDA will be funneled into the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, created years ago for research and promotion of fruits, vegetables, nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops. Funds are allocated by formula to each state. Besides projects to expand the sector, the USDA said the pandemic funding could go to organizations that assist farmworkers in getting vaccinated or outfitted with personal protective equipment. Money also can go to projects that help farmers and food businesses respond to risks and supply chain disruptions.

Textile mills impacted by the pandemic would receive around $80 million, at the rate of 6¢ a pound based on their average cotton usage over a 10-month period. Congress mandated the payments, which cover upland and Pima cotton, in the relief package enacted at the end of 2020. The money will be paid through an existing economic adjustment program for textile mills.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture will award $75 million in grants to address food insecurity in low-income communities and enhance the reslience of food and health care systems. The USDA said NIFA would contact eligible organizations, which already have received awards to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables by vulnerable populations.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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