A bipartisan group of Senators seeks federal relief for local farmers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Led by Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, the group sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture this week. 

The senators urged USDA to ensure a portion of the $9.5 billion secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, goes to local farmers who sell directly to consumers, schools, institutions, food hubs, regional distribution centers, retail markets, farmers markets and restaurants. 

In addition to urging USDA to ensure relief is getting to local farmers, the senators also pressed the department to administer direct payments through the Farm Service Agency in response to the local food industry’s projected $1.1 billion loss in revenue. 

They asked that in order to be eligible to receive a direct payment, local food producers should derive at least 25 percent of total farm income from sales that are locally purchased, including food sold directly to consumers.