Since my last column, the world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. These are uniquely challenging times, the likes of which none of us has ever faced.
Farmers, retailers, food manufacturers, nonprofits and schools all have a major role to play in making sure our communities have the food they need to remain strong and healthy. It’s also a time to support these important members of our communities. All of Minnesota’s diverse agriculture community will be needed to address the challenges created by COVID-19.
As the chairwoman of the House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division, I am pleased to report the good work being done by both the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to the pandemic and keeping our food supply chains strong.
Commissioner Thom Petersen has been in constant contact with legislators, farm organizations, grocers, food producers and ag retailers. He and his team are already looking ahead to the coming weeks to prepare for COVID-19’s impact as we begin planting season, one of the busiest times of the year on Minnesota’s family farms.
Peterson has strongly expressed that he will do whatever it takes in the current peacetime emergency to assist Minnesota farmers and food consumers during this time.
As we maintain the social distancing guidelines set out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health, we can do more to help Minnesotans access the food they need, especially children and seniors, and to support the folks who produce it.
One way you can support our farmers right now is by finding ways to continue or increase purchases you make directly from local growers. You’ll find numerous local food producers who need our support at minnesotagrown.com.
There are thousands of producers around our state who will be impacted by not being able to sell local food to schools and other institutions during this time. There are also many restaurants that emphasize locally-sourced food and produce, and many are continuing to provide take-out during this time. Give them your support, if you can.
This is a time to pull together for the good of all of agriculture.
Rep. Jeanne Poppe, D-Austin, is the chairperson of the Minnesota House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-4193.