Moed urges Indiana Legislature to help agriculture industry amid COVID-19 pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS - State Representative Justin Moed (D-Indianapolis), member of the Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, today wrote a letter to Chairman Don Lehe (R-Brookston) urging him to discuss issues that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic in the agriculture industry during the upcoming interim committee.

In the last few months, multiple issues have arisen in the agriculture industry as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 65 percent of farms reported negative outcomes because of the pandemic, multiple outbreaks occurred at facilities and Indiana farmland has decreased in price.

“Farmers and distributors alike are facing unique problems during this pandemic,” Moed said. “The least we can do is listen, learn and support the people who are tirelessly working to ensure our Hoosier families are fed.”

Read the full letter below.

 


 

Chairman Lehe,

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. Our economic, healthcare, political and social systems are all being strained like never before. In particular, these last few months have shown us that Indiana's agriculture industry and related sectors have been greatly impacted by the effects of COVID-19. The challenges that have risen include virus outbreaks in Indiana's food processing plants, reduced processing capabilities, a higher demand for food assistance and the economic challenges facing the restaurant and hospitality sector.

Interim study committees are an important part of the legislative process because they allow legislators to step back and take an in-depth look at policies to draft legislation for the upcoming session. If these last few months have taught us anything, it's that Indiana has room to grow in multiple areas and we should use our time in the interim study committees to listen to those on the front-line of our various industries. As you prepare to convene the Summer Study Committee on Agriculture, I urge you to make the topic of ensuring our food system remains safe and secure the first order of business.

By taking testimony from farmers, processors, distributors and retailers we could examine the following:

·            With delays and interruptions throughout the agricultural supply chain, how might we eliminate barriers for farmers delivering their commodities to market?

·            Amid current economic and public health conditions, how can we help Indiana’s vital agricultural sector persevere through a difficult period?

·            Are there new, potential markets for Indiana's agricultural products that require development assistance?

·            What flexibility in current rules and regulations do processors and distributors need to ensure product continues to be packaged and delivered without going to waste?

·            Is there a need for increased food storage capacity to handle the rapidly changing supply and demand?

·            What ways can we support food retailers and food pantries as they work to adapt and find innovative ways to get food to consumers safely?

Indiana already experienced major disruptions during the first few months of the pandemic in Cass County and Indiana already experienced major disruptions during the first few months of the pandemic in Cass County and Delphi. As COVID-19 cases rise, it would be wise to ask for input from those directly impacted by the hardships our agriculture industry has faced during these trying months. We can use this interim committee to work together to help support them as they work to feed us during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Justin Moed
House Minority Whip
State Representative
House District 97

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