The Council is working to compile the most current resources for farmers, market managers, and consumers, so that everyone can make informed decisions and have access to fresh, healthy foods in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Find out about the following:
- Financial resources for farmers, both government and private sources of grants, loans, etc.
- Policy and social impacts
- Managing stress and anxiety
- Alternative outlets for farmers to sell their food, including online platforms
- Sample health safety guidelines and “best practices” for farmer’s markets and farmers selling food
- Guidance for cottage food producers
- Help for consumers looking for local food sources
- Which Texas farmers’ markets remain open. (This list was compiled early in the health emergency; many more have opened since then and may not be included here.)
- What to do if your farmers’ market has been ordered to close
NEW: Additionally, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and University of Kentucky gathered more than 100 resources that include safety protocols for farmers’ market customers and vendors, COVID financial resources by state, and advocacy alerts for state and federal policy changes to assist in this and/or future emergencies.
NEW: The USDA also released a chart for easier searching of COVID-relief resources specifically for rural areas.
We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available. Please check back periodically.
Financial Resources for Farmers
- Visit the Farmers’ Legal Action Group for a frequently updated guide to disaster relief programs.
- FARFA worked with several organizations to distribute Farm Aid emergency relief grants in Texas. Those funds have all been distributed, but we will post a notice if additional funds become available. Farmers from other states can see how to apply for the Farm Aid grants on the organization’s Farmer Resilience Initiative page (scroll down to find your state).
- The USDA is providing direct payments to eligible farmers and ranchers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). While CFAP is not well-designed for small, highly diversified operations, many of our livestock producers and some crop producers may qualify. Learn more here.
- Farmers’ Legal Action Group published a June 17 update to its Farmers’ Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This guide includes help understanding what commodities are eligible, as well as information on farmer appeals of CFAP denials and USDA’s discrimination complaint process.
- The Small Business Administration has re-opened the EIDL applications for all small businesses (agricultural and other). The EIDL provides low-interest loans and includes up to $10,000 in initial grant money (i.e. it does not have to be repaid). SBA has been basing the amount of the grant on the number of employees (e.g. if you have 3 employees, you can qualify for $3,000 in grant money, and then be eligible to apply for more in loans if you need).
- SBA is also continuing to accept applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — the deadline has been extended. The PPP covers up to 2.5 months of payroll expenses, including 2.5 months of self-employed income.
- Farmers who showed a profit on their 2019 Schedule F can use that as self-employed income for the PPP program. See Question 3 on this guidance document.
- Congress has amended the rules for the PPP, providing a longer time period for the funds to be used for payroll and still have the loan forgiven (i.e. not have to be repaid). Find more information on the revised requirements here.
- Get more information on both the PPP and the EIDL at the SBA’s website.
- Check out this excellent short handout and table that set out the basics of seeking relief from any of these, and many more, programs. (Thank you to Farm Aid, FLAG, and the other organizations who put this guide together.)
- Farm Aid compiled this list of links (and provides frequent updates) for state and national resources for farmers. Many relate to financial and marketing support, but others include assistance for mental health and other issues.
- Farm Service Agency offers Short-Term Operational Loans, Available to start, maintain, and strengthen a farm or ranch; or Microloans, financing the needs of small, beginning, niche, and non-traditional farms.
- Rural Advancement Foundation International has a good guide to how to document your disaster losses. We don’t know which farms will or will not be eligible for help based on Congress’s disaster relief actions, but it’s important to keep documentation.
- American Farmland Trust offered a relief fund to award farmers cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm. They closed applications for now but are raising funds to replenish the grant pool, so it’s worth checking their website for updates.
- Southern Smoke Foundation offers Emergency Relief Grants to owners, employees, and suppliers of restaurants and bars (this includes farmers and ranchers).
Policy and Social Impacts
- Our sister organization, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, is working to pass the federal PRIME Act. This regulatory change has only become more vital due to COVID-related shutdowns of meat processing plants. Small producers face waits of up to 2 years to process their animals (in other words, they have to reserve spots for animals not even born yet). Please read about FARFA’s work on the PRIME Act.
- National Family Farm Coalition and allied organizations released a joint statement about what needs to be included in the COVID stimulus packages.
- Farmers’ Legal Action Group provides instructions for its free legal services plus resources for other types of support at its Farmers’ Guide to COVID-19 Relief webpage.
Stress, Mental Health, & Well-Being Resources
- The Farm Aid mental health hotline is available Monday-Friday EST at 1-800-FARM-AID, or you can get in touch with their Farmer Services team by filling out this online form.
- If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Text the Crisis Text Line to connect with a real person: Text “CONNECT” to 741741.
- Dial 211 to find local resources and counselors.
- Here are more resources you can read about how to manage your stress during this or other difficult times:
Alternative Options for Farms to Sell Foods
With restaurants and schools shut down, many farmers have lost a major outlet for their fresh produce, meat, and eggs. We’ve put together some resources to help farmers identify alternative markets or to sell their products and still protect their personal health.
- RAFI USA posted very helpful information for farmers who are losing sales because of restaurant closures, closed markets, or other impacts of the corona virus.
- Purdue University offers an online guide to help producers navigate disruption to local production cycles. This guide includes a range of ideas on different business options, as well as providing information about food safety standards, suggestions on inventory management, and guidance on delivery systems.
- No-touch transactions: For those wanting to avoid handling money or cards, if you already use Square, setting up Apple Pay further reduces contact (https://squareup.com/guides/apple-pay ) Venmo Accounts are another option (https://venmo.com/)
- Wholesale options: The grocers we have talked with are interested in buying from local farmers, but are not relaxing any of their usual requirements (such as GAP). Consider:
- A non-profit, formed in response to COVID-19’s impact on food supplies, FarmLink purchases surplus produce from farmers and distributes it to food banks across the country. Let them know if you have product to sell at https://thefarmlinkproject.org/volunteer-research-farms.
- Concerned about being stopped while traveling? FARFA has a sample travel authorization letter for you and your employees to carry with you.
Multiple companies offer online sales platforms specifically designed for fresh foods. Oregon Tilth hosted a webinar that is posted here on four services:
- Barn2Door (a sponsor and speaker at our 2019 Farm & Food Leadership Conference)
- Local Food Marketplace
- Open Food Network
Additional online sales options include:
Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask when deciding which online platform to use.
Health Safety Guidelines for Farmers Markets & Farmers
- The Agricultural Justice Project has developed a two-page guidance on creating a health & safety plan for your farm, with links to printable materials.
- The University of California at Davis offers a comprehensive guide for food safety during the pandemic, covering every link in the supply chain, from growers, food banks, and farmers’ markets to consumers.
- Texas Department of State Health Services has issued statewide guidance for farmers markets posted at the second link on this page.
- Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has a sample letter you can use to advocate for your local farmers’ market or other local food business to stay open. It includes link to statements from California, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
- FARFA also has a sample travel authorization letter for farm & food business workers.
- California’s Extension Service has developed a set of practical how-to resources for implementing Food Safety at the Farm During COVID-19.
- University of Vermont has information for fruit & vegetable producers , including health and food safety steps that growers should take, and planning & communication advice for markets and farmers markets.
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension has guidance specifically for U-Pick Farms
- Cornell University has information targeted for managing your farm workforce
Help for Cottage Food Producers
No state or local guidance has addressed cottage food producers specifically. Here are some thoughts:
- The normal statutory and regulatory restrictions apply. Cottage food operators are governed by state laws, which are different in each state. But whatever foods are normally allowed, and under what restrictions, remain the same in your state.
- The language of the orders that we are seeing would generally appear to allow cottage food operators to continue operating as “essential services” that provide food for people. For example, the order just issued by Dallas County lists “food service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers’ markets that sell food products and household staples” as essential retail. The order also recognizes businesses that deliver food directly to residences, as well as those that prepare food for carry out. These provisions would encompass cottage food operations. But you need to read your state or county’s order carefully. They are all different, and we cannot give blanket guidance.
- Respect the need for social distancing: Keep your physical distance and consider ways to conduct your transactions with no or minimal contact (taking pre-orders and payment online, etc.). Take appropriate sanitation precautions and do NOT prepare food if you are showing any symptoms or have had contact with someone with COVID. The guidelines for farmers’ markets, above, may be helpful.
Local Food Sources in Texas
- If you need assistance finding food, a hotline is available to help. You can visit http://www.211.org/services/
covid19 or dial 211 on your phone.
- If you live in Texas and need help with obtaining food, see if you might qualify for state benefits, which have been expanded during the COVID-19 emergency.
- We have invited Texas farms to let us know if they have food available for new customers, as well as whether they have added on-farm pickups, home delivery, or online pre-orders. As we get that information, we will post it on the same page as the listing of open farmers’ markets. Are you a farmer interested in being listed? Email info@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org.
- The Tarrant Area Food Bank has compiled a very helpful list of resources to obtain local foods, whether you live in Tarrant County or elsewhere.
- DO NOT show up at farms without prior permission.
- Follow specific instructions provided by each farm.
- Stay home if you are feeling ill.
Note: Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and the Council for Healthy Food Systems are not responsible for the coordination of food pickups – please contact farmers directly. Farmers are responsible for letting us know of changes to their listing. We will update this page as more farms are added or if we are notified of changes.
Keeping Farmers’ Markets Open
As states and local governments announce restrictions on public gatherings, the status of farmers’ markets remains inconsistent across the country. These markets are essential services and should be classified as such, just as grocery stores are.
We compiled a list of Texas open farmers’ markets (where we are based) in March, when many were shut down. Since then, many more have opened. You can also find a list of additional sources for local foods here, although again, this was compiled in March and should not be considered comprehensive.
The New Braunfels Farmers Market shared its excellent press release that encourages people to shop at the market and explains why it’s a great option during this difficult time. Consider using it as a template to create your own local release if your farmers’ market remains closed.
If your local government is hesitating about allowing the market to remain open, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has resources to help here. Many states have now recognized farmers’ markets as “essential services” and provide guidance on how to continue safely operating.
Note that we have NOT heard of any local or state government shutting down individual farmers from selling their food to customers. If that has happened to you, please let us know!