State official urges USDA to use funds to support Michigan farmers


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell on Tuesday sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, calling on him to support Michigan when distributing the billions in federal aid.

Perdue is in charge of allotting to states $19 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation and the $9.5 billion appropriated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Michigan’s food and agriculture industry generates $104.7 billion in total economic activity for the state. Our farmers and producers need USDA’s help to survive this,” McDowell said.

From orchards full of cherries and apples to greenhouses producing beans and asparagus, Michigan grows it all. Unfortunately, farmers have struggled to overcome severe weather and low commodity prices last year, and COVID-19 has created even more economic hardships for the state’s agricultural businesses.

Michigan dairy producers have seen falling prices and fluctuating demand, leading them to dump out milk. With consumer demand down, difficulty getting labor, and multiple processing facilities closing, meat and poultry businesses are struggling to stay above water.

MDARD is asking for temporary flexibilities on farm loans recently announced by USDA’s Farm Service Agency to be made permanent for the duration of the pandemic response and subsequent economic recovery.

“Michigan’s farming and agriculture community is facing extraordinary challenges to keep food on the shelves,” McDowell said. “We’re grateful for the aid our farmers received when 82 of the state’s 83 counties were declared disasters last year. I am hopeful we can count on USDA’s continued support in these unprecedented times.”

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