Bill improving food access and infrastructure introduced in House and Senate

January 19, 2021

Legislation has been introduced in each chamber seeking to improve food access/distribution infrastructure while assisting Virginia farmers and local and regional food banks.

HB 2203 (Filler-Corn) and SB 1188 (Hashmi) establish the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance Program and Fund (VFAP). The VFAP will provide funding for Virginia farmers and food producers to donate, sell, or provide agriculture products to charitable food assistance organizations. The Program will also provide funding to local and regional food banks to reimburse farmers or food producers for any costs associated with harvesting, processing, packaging, or transporting agriculture products donated to such charitable food assistance organizations.

While agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, more than one million Virginians are at risk of hunger.  The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular the impact the pandemic has had on the food access/distribution supply chain, have further highlighted this reality.  In 2020, food banks distributed 48 million more pounds of food to households than in 2019 (41% increase) while spending $31 million on food purchasing to try to keep up with the growing need (three times the spending of 2019).

The VFAP seeks to address the growing need for food while also helping local farmers.  Governor Northam’s proposed budget includes $600,000 to establish the VFAP in FY 2022, though coupled with Virginia’s food crop donation tax credit and additional federal support, this fund will have a much greater impact.

SB 1188 was heard by the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday afternoon (January 19), where it was unanimously reported and referred to the Senate Finance Committee. HB 2203 has been referred to the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee and will be heard Wednesday morning (January 20).

VACo supports HB 2203/SB 1188.

VACo contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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