The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of new and difficult challenges for families, farmers and other small business owners, and food producers across the country. While closures of schools, restaurants, and hotels help slow the rapid spread of infection, they have also resulted in surges in unemployment and food insecurity. Moreover, these closures cut farmers off from key markets and led to supply chain disruptions that pervaded every level of the U.S. food system. In the absence of infrastructure to divert produce intended for these markets to grocery stores or emergency feeding organizations, millions of pounds of food rotted in fields, farmers went uncompensated, and food banks ran out of inventory at a time when demand was at an all-time high. As the U.S. food system weathered this economic stress, Congress passed a series of bills aimed at keeping businesses afloat and families fed.
Since March 2020—and as of August 2020—Congress has passed four emergency response bills. To help elucidate these developments FBLE has published a COVID-19 Response & Farm Bill Policy Backgrounder. This Backgrounder provides an overview of the new legislation and takes a closer look at how it impacts domestic agricultural and nutrition policies included in the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress prepares to pass the next stimulus package, this Backgrounder maps the current landscape of farm-bill related, federal food and agriculture policy enacted during the pandemic.