(BIVN) – State Representative Richard Onishi gave an agricultural sector update on Monday, during a meeting Hawaiʻi State House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness. Onishi began by covering the USDA announcement that came out on April 17.
The requests for proposals for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program were announced last Friday, and Rep. Onishi said that “many organizations, I’m hearing, need help in the application because of the schedule for submittal. I believe the deadline’s May 1st.”
“What it does do is provide direct support to farmers and ranchers,” Onishi said. “$16 billion dollars for actual losses, lost demand and short term oversupply. Again, the RFP just came out for that.”
“It also provides, through USDA purchase and distribution, another $3.3 billion dollars,” Onishi said. “The intent is to spend a hundred million per month to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, another hundred million for dairy products, and another hundred million for meat products. This is all monthly, throughout the nation.”
“There’s also section 32 funding, which is $873.3 million dollars for the purchase and distribution to food bank needs by industry requests,” Onishi continued. “And then, there’s the Family First Coronavirus Response Act and
Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, which also has $850 million, for which $600 million is for food purchases by food banks.”
“And then SNAP benefits,” Onishi said. “Emergency allotments have been increased 40% and Hawaiʻi was approved on April 17 for additional funds. The supplemental CARES Act funding now allows for farmers and ranchers to participate in the [Paycheck Protection Program] and also in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which they were excluded from in the original request. In additional funding, I think, from the industry standpoint, we are working with a number of stakeholders. I also sent out, from Senator Hirono’s office, a document to help with the agriculture industry in looking at the funding available and how to go about applying for different programs and what’s available.”
Eric Kingma of the Hawaiʻi Longline Association had a question about the USDA purchasing program and whether or not seafood products are included in the meat definition. “My understanding is that fresh and frozen seafood is not included, which – in my opinion, and others I believe in Hawaiʻi – is a problem because Hawaiʻi residents, as everyone knows, consumes seafood fish at twice the national average and so seafood products should be included. And if they’re not, then maybe you know Rep. Case could take that to DC and help on that regard.” Kingma added that the Hawaiʻi fisheries sector has been hit very, very hard since March 14.
Rep. Onishi said he would follow up on that.