Hoeven expects new coronavirus aid package by early August
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., said that he expects Congress to write another coronavirus aid package that includes agriculture “over the next weeks.”
“We are working on it now,” Hoeven told North Dakota farm and ranch leaders on a virtual roundtable.
“Things change and evolve,” he said, but “I anticipate by the first part of August we are going to have some something.”
Then he added, “The caveat is all that could change.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said this week that he expects the Republicans in the Senate and President Donald Trump to come up with a coronavirus aid package next week.
The House has already passed a package called the HEROES Act, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week she is willing to cancel or postpone the House recess scheduled to begin at the end of July to reach agreement with the Senate on a final bill.
During the roundtable Hoeven noted that the last coronavirus aid package included $14.5 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation, which the Agriculture Department has not tapped because it could not use the money until after a reporting requirement at the end of June.
During the call, the farm and ranch leaders said:
• It is important that fatted cattle be slaughtered.
• Ethanol plants need aid.
• The addition of potatoes to the CFAP program is not providing the aid growers expected.
• The WHIP Plus application process is cumbersome.
• The Trump administration is doing a good job of managing the sugar program.
Hoeven said he expects the next package to continue the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program with some add ons.
“We are looking at what the House did and there are certainly things in that we will use and there are likely to be some differences too,” Hoeven said. But he added that the House package cost $3 trillion and that the final package will not be that large.
He also said he has the fiscal year 2021 agriculture appropriations bill ready for subcommittee and full appropriations committee consideration, but that the appropriations process in the Senate has stopped.
Hoeven said he does not know whether the appropriations bill will pass before the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, but that even if there is a continuing resolution it will be based on the fiscal year 2020 bill and will include enough money to “fund farm programs going forward.”
Between coronavirus aid and the appropriations bills, “we have positioned ourselves as well as we can,” Hoeven said. ❖