SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture joined Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) to speak with Central Illinois farmers Monday morning.
Sonny Perdue returned to the Beaty family farm in Rochester for the first time in three years and discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on farmers. He touched on policies and relief programs created in the nation’s capital to help those working in the agriculture industry.
Perdue’s department just expanded the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to ensure farmers and ranchers made it through market disruption.
“We inquired about if Congress wanted us to spend this $14 billion. They said yes, we think there’s still needs out there,” Perdue explained. “And, I think there’s needs out there. So we developed the CFAP 2 program that just got implemented for signup.”
While farmers are struggling financially, Perdue says the country has plenty of meat and crops to bring food to the table for families.
“Aren’t we blessed to live in a country where we have to depend on exports for profitability because we can feed our people so productively that way? Now that’s a blessing,” Perdue added. “Even during this pandemic, there was never a fear.”
Helping others get a meal
Davis and Perdue also spent time with leaders from Central Illinois Foodbank and the Boys & Girls Club of Central Illinois. They helped distribute food boxes from the USDA Farmers to Families program Perdue spearheaded during the pandemic.
“I’m really glad Secretary Perdue is here, so we can highlight the efficiencies and the actions that they’ve taken in Washington to make sure that we fulfill that need,” Davis said. “Not just here today at the Boys & Girls Club on the east side of Springfield, but in rural communities like Taylorville and others.”
He feels the program shows how lawmakers can come together quickly. Perdue explained the normal procurement process takes 12-18 months.
“The bottom line is because of his actions, the Trump administration’s actions, and Congress funding these programs, we’re getting food to the homes that need it the most.”
Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Tiffany Mathis said the pandemic led to a great partnership with the foodbank. “Would you mind partnering with us, so we can make sure that our community eats? And we said absolutely.”
Mathis noted over 8,000 gallons of milk have been handed out since the partnership started. She said the group has already given out more than 7,000 meat and dairy boxes. They noted some people would sit in the car line for hours to get food to bring home.
“We had been closed over the Labor Day weekend, and our last distribution had been on a Friday. We redistributed food again that following Wednesday,” Mathis said. “There were people in line with tears in their eyes because even that stretch from Friday to Wednesday, they were questioning where they were going to find that next meal. The need doesn’t stop because we want it to.”