Outbreak May Drive $1B Loss to Local Food

Politico, March 20, 2020

“The total economic cost of the coronavirus outbreak on local and regional food systems, such as farmers markets, farm-to-school programs, restaurants and food hubs, could total $1.3 billion between March and May of this year, according to a new analysis by researchers at Colorado State University, the University of Missouri, and a former official within USDA’s Local Food Research and Development Division.

Social distancing measures, including the closure of universities, schools, restaurants and farm stands, is already causing significant shifts in where food is sold. The vast majority, or 85 percent, of farms supplying food to local and regional markets are small, while one in four have recently entered the business, USDA data shows. At farmers markets alone, sales could fall between $240 million and $600 million through May. Researchers noted that in many cities, including San Francisco, farmers markets have been deemed essential, along with grocery stores and food banks.

There could be a $27.4 million loss in restaurant and institutional sales. The researchers urged Congress to cover local food and farm businesses under any stimulus package for small businesses, as well as ease restrictions on federal nutrition programs’ ability to purchase food from local and regional suppliers.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) earlier this week also encouraged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to provide emergency disaster payments to farmers selling fresh and minimally processed foods in local markets who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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