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dir="ltr">U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited central Illinois on Monday to tout a food assistance program and laud farmers for the jobs they do amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made several stops in central Illinois Monday. At a stop in Springfield with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, where the pair and others handed out boxes through the Food Box Program, Perdue said instead of increasing funds through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the Food Box Program was more streamlined.
“Farmers didn’t have a market, they lost their market,” Perdue said. “The distribution, the trucks and the employees were laid off in the distribution cycle and the people had needs."
Perdue said at the peak of the pandemic, there were some troubling disruptions to the food supply chain, but lessons were learned.
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“I’m hopeful in the future going forward it will connect farmers and growers with consumers more,” Perdue. “We think consumers want to know where there’s food coming from. I think many people had learned more about the food supply chain then they thought they’d ever need to know.”
Perdue later took part in a forum with central Illinois farmers at a family farm in Rochester.
Macoupin County Farm Bureau Executive Director Mark Dugger said farmers have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they implement best practices handed down from generations before them.
“Yeah, the pandemic has hurt,” Dugger said. “Yes, the programs that the secretary spoke about today have been a huge help, but he’s absolutely right, these guys would rather have free trade and a free market than a government check.”
Robert Klemm with the Illinois Farm Bureau was also pleased with Purdue and the Trump administration.
“Everybody looks at the money that’s been passed out, that’s been extremely beneficial in helping with the economic downturn in the agricultural economy, but there are many more things with the regulations and the [Renewable Fuel Standards] that’s been addressed,” Klemm said. “It’s been very good to Illinois agriculture, especially.”
In the past several years, the Trump administration has eased restrictions on waterways and allowed for more fuel alternatives to come from agriculture by-products.