A $19 billion aid package for American farmers will provide direct support to producers and massive purchases for the country’s food banks.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday, is intended to stabilize the country’s food producers as they weather the pandemic’s effects.

The department will provide $16 billion in direct aid to producers to offset losses created by lost demand and short-term oversupply during the pandemic.

It will also purchase $3 billion worth of products to distribute through food banks, faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations that are serving Americans in need, the department said in a news release.

Food will be purchased through local and regional distributors whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and institutions, the department said. It plans to buy $100 million worth of meat, $100 million of produce and $100 million per month.

The department will also provide $873 million to purchase agricultural products for food banks and make $850 million available for food bank purchases and administrative costs.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said in a news release Saturday that the “devil is in the details” of the massive program. Pingree urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make sure small farmers and local food economies like Maine’s received support through the program.

“It is concerning that the specifics of this multibillion-dollar relief package impacting millions of lives were released after 9 p.m. on a Friday night during a closed press briefing,” Pingree said.

“These policies will have direct effects on the livelihoods of farmers and food producers in this country, and they deserve to have access to the conversations and decisions being made about them.”

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