CoC moving for funding local farmers impacted by COVID-19 restrictions
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Chamber of Commerce has requested more information from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on how to include local produce — such as taro and bananas — as allowable products for funding under federal COVID-19 funds, as local farmers were impacted by coronavirus restrictions.
Local farmers provide taro and bananas, as well as other locally grown produce for the federally funded School Lunch Program, administered locally by the Department of Education. However, all public and private schools have been closed since late March due to restrictions imposed under the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.
Chamber chairperson Ella Gurr informed USDA, that funds the school lunch program, that “local farmers heavily rely on taro and banana's as produce to harvest and provide to our local stores and community.”
“Many of our farmers have been hugely impacted due to school closures,” since they provided produce to the school lunch program she said, noting that due to COVID-19 restrictions the “school lunch program has been reduced to sandwiches and imported oranges and apples.”
“Our farmers have seen up to 75% loss of revenue impact,” she said, adding that it’s important that “we capture a realistic picture of what the local farmers produce and who they resell their products to.”
Gurr requested advise from the USDA on how the Chamber can assist in providing data to show the impact on local farmers as well as how “we can add local produce on to the allowable products to be considered in funding.” In particular, are taros and bananas.
The Chamber chairperson’s request is made through the public comment process, as USDA seeks public input to help the federal agency identify information about additional commodities that are not already identified listed under the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) regulation for inclusion in CFAP — which helps agricultural producers impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
USDA requests information about agricultural commodities that the public believes has suffered a 5-percent-or-greater price loss between the weeks of January 13-17, 2020, and April 6-10, 2020, for specialty crops, and April 6-10, 2020, for all other agricultural commodities, according to USDA documents made public through the federal portal (www.regulations.gov).
USDA says it is requesting information from the public to assist USDA in determining whether additional agricultural commodities not listed under the current CFAP should be eligible for CFAP. The CFAP document has already listed taro, under the column of “specialty crop”, but not bananas.
According to USDA, a provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides about $9 billion the US Secretary of Agriculture to provide assistance to agricultural producers impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
USDA has set a deadline of June 22nd to receive public comments on additional commodities to be added to the CFAP. (More information on www.regulations.gov)