Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) are pressing Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to form a task force to identify rural challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter sent to Perdue on Friday and first reported by The Hill, the Democrats say Perdue should form the task force to ensure that rural communities are not forgotten as the federal government provides help to states hit by the health crisis.
“Rural America cannot carry the burden of addressing this public health emergency and economic crisis alone, and we urge you to establish a ‘Rural COVID-19 Task Force’ that will ensure their priorities are met in an expedited manner,” the letter states. It is signed by 26 Democratic members of Congress.
They noted that in rural America, there are fewer hospital beds and resources and that 1 in 5 rural Americans are people of color. Minorities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
“People living in rural America are more likely to be uninsured, advanced in age, and have preexisting medical conditions,” the members wrote. “Rural parents and students struggle to work or attend school remotely without reliable internet access. Agricultural producers and processors have less cash flow due to price declines, lack of market opportunities and an already stretched workforce being squeezed by positive COVID-19 tests.”
The letter comes as agriculture groups are calling for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to step in and purchase products to keep them from going to waste and to provide payments to producers.
Farmers are finding it harder to sell their products and recent closures of processing plants due to outbreaks of the coronavirus have put a spotlight on the food supply chain.