Congress agrees to complex aid to farmers and the hungry
Congress has reached agreement on a huge combined fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations bill and coronavirus aid package that includes various forms of aid to farmers, an increase of 15% in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for six months, and other nutrition assistance.
After Congress passed a 24-hour continuing resolution Sunday to fund the government though midnight tonight, the House is expected to vote on the package today.
It’s not yet clear whether the Senate will vote on the package today or whether Congress will pass a week-long continuing resolution to allow the Senate to vote at a more leisurely pace and send the package to President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, the White House advised that the Trump family will leave for Florida Wednesday for the Christmas holiday.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released the details of the agriculture and nutrition provisions in a news release late Sunday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hunger crisis that has touched every part of our nation,” Stabenow said.
“As many as 50 million Americans are not able to feed themselves and their families. After many months of pushing for a critical SNAP increase and other funding to address the hunger crisis in our country, I am very pleased that we finally reached a bipartisan agreement that will help both families and farmers in need. Farmers will receive the support they need to keep their farms and businesses going. I am relieved that help is on the way and I look forward to continuing to do more in the New Year to help Americans through this continuing crisis.”
The agriculture and nutrition provisions are remarkable in three ways.
First, the aid to producers and to nutrition beneficiaries is split equally. While the Senate bipartisan bill called for $13 billion in aid to farmers and $6 billion in nutrition benefits, the final package provides $13 billion for each program.
Second, the bill provides a 15% SNAP increase for six months rather than the three months that the bipartisan Senate bill had proposed. That provision is especially remarkable since there were reports that House Agriculture Committee Republicans had objected to the nutrition aid.
Third, the aid to farmers is detailed rather than an amount of money over which the agriculture secretary would have total discretion. Democrats have questioned whether the distribution of aid to farmers made by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been appropriate.
Stabenow said the bill:
▪ Provides an estimated $5 billion for supplemental $20 per acre payments to all row crop producers.
▪ Provides an estimated $225 million for supplemental payments to producers of specialty crops if they lost their crop in 2019.
▪ Provides up to $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers, contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry due to COVID crisis.
The bill also includes food purchases, dairy donations, aid to small meat and poultry processors, additional specialty. crop grants and other forms of aid.
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Fresh spring growth is a welcome sight for producers looking for animal forage. However, this lush growth may also be the perfect set of conditions for a case of grass tetany.