Coronavirus aid package includes $13 billion in ag relief
Agreement was reached for a new round of coronavirus aid with a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package, including $26 billion in relief for nutrition assistance, agriculture and rural programs. Half of the funding was provided to the House Agriculture and the House Education and Labor Committees for nutritional assistance, while the other $13 billion goes directly to agricultural assistance and programs.
While the bill was not expected to clear Congress until Dec. 21, Congress and the White House reached agreement on Dec. 20. The relief deal was combined with a $1.4 trillion funding bill for Fiscal Year 2021.
“As our citizens continue battling this coronavirus this holiday season, they will not be fighting alone,” says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) while announcing the relief package on the Senate floor.
The bill provides $11.1875 specifically for agricultural producers, growers and processors. From this funding, producers can expect to see supplemental Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments for crop and cattle producers and payments to livestock producers for depopulation losses because of insufficient processing access due to COVID-19.
This same funding is also available to make loans and grants available to small and mid-sized food processors and distributors to respond to COVID-19, including measures to protect workers, according to the summary provided by Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN).
The farm bill’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program was provided $100 million in additional funding goes to support specialty crop farmers and address COVID-19 specialty crop supply chain issues. Another $100 million in additional funding to support local farmers, farmer’s markets and value-added production for farmers impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions through the farm bill’s Local Agriculture Market Program.
Support for small and mid-sized dairies is provided through supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage payments, and the bill provides $400 million to pay for milk to be processed and donated to nonprofits, such as food banks, through the Dairy Donation Program.
Facility upgrades and planning grants for existing meat and poultry processors were provided $60 million to move to federal inspection and allow sales across state lines.
The bill also establishes a federal livestock dealer trust to ensure livestock producers are paid for their animals.
“After many months of pushing for a critical Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase and other funding to address the hunger crisis in our country, I am very pleased we finally reached a bipartisan agreement which will help both families and farmers in need,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
The bill increases the monthly SNAP benefits by 15 percent through June 30, 2021 and extends SNAP eligibility to college students who qualify for federal or state work study programs. Additional assistance for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand SNAP purchasing programs online including for farmers’ markets and direct marketing producers adds up to another $5 million.
Another $400 million is specified for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and $13 million to the Commodity Supplemental Food program for use through Sept. 30, 2021.
Emergency relief for school meals including child and adult care food programs are provided as much funding as necessary. The Older Americans Act nutrition programs were provided $175 million in emergency funding for nutrition programs, including $7 million for tribal nutrition programs.
A new round of stimulus checks, up to $600 per person, is included in the bill. The package also contains $20 billion for purchasing COVID-19 vaccines, $8 billion for vaccine distribution and $20 to assist states with testing.
The relief agreement earmarks $7 billion to expand broadband access, including $300 million for rural broadband, $250 million for telehealth and authorizing a new emergency broadband to make high-speed internet more affordable for students, families and unemployed workers.
A two-year water project bill was being added to the bill, including a funding change which would initiate work on dam reconstruction, along with waterway and harbor projects.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.