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Tennessee farmer calling on elected officials to save farmers with COVID-19 relief bill

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Posted at 4:04 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 17:04:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Farmers, like many other Americans, have fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. From empty grocery store shelves to restaurants being forced to close, which has impacted their daily operations. But relief is coming and one rancher says he has a plan that could help every farmer in the state.

As a beef producer, Corey Lea understands just how hard the pandemic has impacted farmers. When he's not tending to his own livestock, he is advocating for minority farmers like himself.

“We want to have workable solutions, and the farmers in Tennessee deserve a piece of that money and they deserve relief,” said Lea.

But help is on the way.

In President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, now signed into law, $5 billion will go to Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American farmers. Four billion dollars would go toward covering up to 120% of outstanding debt, and $1 billion is designated for outreach, training, education, technical assistance and grants.

But Lea doesn't want to make this about color but instead, about helping the small farmer.

“Why can't we get into the research, why cannot we get into distribution, why cannot we get into processing facilities and things of that nature.”

Lea is urging Governor Bill Lee and leaders in Washington to ensure more funding for agriculture goes into the hands of local farmers here in Tennessee to create more jobs and a better future for farmers.

“We need to work together and say 'hey we need to catch up' because if Middle Tennessee or even the state of Tennessee as a whole don’t catch up and come up with a new business strategy, then it’s going to get worse for farmers,” said Lea.

He wants to see the state and federal government use that relief funding to partner with agriculture schools like Tennessee State University. He says with that partnership, it will not only help college students but can help small farmers get the tools they need to expand their resources across the state.