I was grateful when President Trump recently called me to discuss the agriculture community’s concerns related to the coronavirus crisis, particularly the need to assure the public that our food supply chain remains strong in the midst of this pandemic.
Later that day, the president shared that message in his remarks from the White House press room and encouraged the nation to thank and pray for “the incredible food supply workers who are feeding our nation.” We may personally know some of these dedicated individuals, but they are often complete strangers, who are sacrificing and working extra hours, under extreme pressure, to ensure we have food to put on our tables.
Our nation is rightfully thanking first responders and the medical community standing tall on the frontlines of this fight. We pray for their safety as they provide critical care to those in need. While we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, we must also lift up those responsible for ensuring the resiliency of our food supply chain.
Americans depend on our nation’s farmers to grow the food, fuel and fiber we need. This dependence becomes much more pronounced in times of crisis, which creates additional strain on those who provide the goods and supplies necessary for everyday life.
Our agriculture community, trucking industry and grocers are doing incredible work to ensure that food and critical supplies remain in stock. This moment is presenting an enormous challenge, but they are rising to the occasion.
No one is immune to this virus. We are beginning to see an uptick in the number of employees at processing plants, grocery stores and other key points in the supply chain who have tested positive. Fortunately, these critical industries have contingency plans in place and are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to protect the health and safety of essential workers, while keeping critical functions operating throughout the outbreak.
While the industry is doing its part, the federal government must take responsible steps to ensure the continuity of our country’s food supply and support rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues to urge U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to consider enacting emergency measures that provide relief to our farmers and ranchers—such as deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance and a full suspension of all current and pending foreclosure actions—for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery.
While consumers may encounter some empty shelves and challenges finding variety during shopping trips, the ebb and flow of a store’s stock is not an indication of a national shortage or a reason to panic. There is no need to buy more groceries than is necessary for a week or two. These are anxious times, but the supply chain is resilient, our producers are agile and our food is safe and abundant. You will be able to get food and supplies on your next visit, without depleting the options for others in need now.
We have to remember we are all in this together. While most of us are fol