Fact Check | American Rescue Plan has $4 billion for food distribution, relief for producers

In a newsletter, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, a Democrat, said that the American Rescue Plan calls for buying more food from farmers. The USDA will absorb $4 billion into its current budget from the ARP, though department officials weren’t sure how the new money will be spent.


Brian Grace, Politics Reporter

PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.

Edited by Lyle Muller and Sarah Watson

If your time is short

  • Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, wrote in a weekly newsletter that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 calls for buying more food from farmers and distributing it to nonprofits, restaurants, and food banks to help feed families in need and support farmers.
  • The American Rescue Plan includes Wahls’ claim almost word for word, stating that $4 billion will be appropriated to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to fund agriculture relief.
  • The USDA will absorb the $4 billion into its current budget, though department officials weren’t sure how the new money will get spent.

President Biden signed into law The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or the ARP for short, on March 11 after a party-line vote in the U.S. Senate and with no Republican support to go along with two “no” Democrat votes in the U.S. House. The act provides U.S. citizens with financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many people are familiar with the third round of stimulus checks that came from the legislation, but the ARP includes additional provisions for economic relief, including emergency funding for states, homeowner assistance, and small business credit.

Given the act’s partisan vote, we noted that one of the Iowa Democratic Party’s leaders, state Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, promoted the act when writing in one of his weekly newsletters:

“The federal American Rescue Plan will purchase more food from farmers for distribution through food banks, nonprofits and restaurants, helping to feed families in need and support farmers’ bottom lines.”

In an email exchange with The Daily Iowan, Wahls referenced a March 10 U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet as the primary source for his claim, which matched his newsletter almost word for word. But, does that mean more is being spent on farmers? 

The answer is yes, although allocated money in this program also goes to non-farmers.

U.S. Department of Agriculture performance manager Chris Nelson said in a phone interview with the DI that $4 billion is being added to the USDA’s budget for spending in 2021 and in upcoming years. Subsection A of the ARP’s Section 1001 states that $4 billion will be appropriated to the USDA to fund the legislation’s agriculture relief effort.

However, Nelson said the USDA still must determine where, specifically, to spend the $4 billion.

Nelson said the USDA annually releases a budget report for the following year. He said the budget for fiscal 2022, which normally would have been published two months ago, was delayed because of the presidential transition and won’t be published until May or June.

The USDA’s budget summary for fiscal 2021, published in February 2020 does not include ARP’s $4 billion.

As for the legislation’s agriculture relief effort, the $4 billion is to be used to purchase fresh food and distribute it to nonprofits, food banks, and restaurants, according to Section 1001. The same section also states the $4 billion is to finance loans and grants for food processors, distributors, and producers as additional aid in response to the pandemic.

Andrew Wheeler, the media contact for the Iowa Farm Bureau, said efforts to buy fresh produce directly from farmers tend to happen over a prolonged period of time because of the need to wait until after the growing season occurs.

Our Ruling

How the American Rescue Plan is to be spent still is to be determined. But, while the act doesn’t specifically call out farmers by name, it explicitly orders a new $4 billion USDA appropriation to buy fresh food for nonprofits, food banks, and restaurants, plus additional relief for non-farmers in the food supply chain. 

We rate this claim to be True. 


Zach Wahls newsletter, April 8, 2021

Email exchange between Zach Wahls and The Daily Iowan

U.S. Department of Treasury Fact Sheet

U.S. Department of Agriculture Fact Sheet

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

USDA Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Summary

Chris Nelson,  USDA performance manager, phone interview 

Andrew Wheeler, Iowa Farm Bureau media contact, phone interview

PolitiFact American Rescue Plan stories