Hoeven hopes to cover more of second quarter farm losses
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Thursday he wants farmers’ losses due to the coronavirus pandemic to be covered at a higher level than the Agriculture Department currently plans.
On a webinar with North Dakota farm leaders, Hoeven said that USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is attempting to cover 85% of farmers’ losses in the first quarter of this year, but only 30% of losses in the second quarter.
Hoeven said he wants the second quarter losses “funded in a more effective way,” but just how that would happen depends on negotiations in Congress.
He noted that the CARES Act provided an additional $14 billion in authority for the Commodity Credit Corporation, but that money will not be available until July.
Hoeven said he hopes that authority can be used for COVID-19 related aid, but said using the money for that purpose depends on the reauthorization of the CCC in the fiscal year 2021 Agriculture appropriations bill.
Hoeven noted that the usual replenishment for the CCC, a line of credit that the Agriculture Department has at the Treasury Department to pay for a range of farm programs, is $30 billion, but that he hopes to get $50 billion.
There has also been talk of raising the CCC level to $68 billion, an amount that includes a calculation of inflation since the $30 billion level was set in the 1980s.
The House HEROES bill “has some potential — they would bump up the CCC,” Hoeven said. “I like that,” he said, adding that he believes he could “work” with the House bill.
Hoeven also said he want more funding for the The Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), which provides disaster payments to producers to offset losses from hurricanes, wildfires, and other qualifying natural disasters.
During the call, several farmers said they want farmers who have been unable to plant their crops due to weather problems treated equally with those who do.
One farmer said it would be much easier if the COVID-19 farm aid was organized by the acre, rather than production.
Pete Hanebutt, the director of public policy for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, said that he is starting to get “push back” against aid to farmers from people who are worried about deficit spending. Hanebutt suggested that reducing taxes and regulation “to grow out of the problem” should be a response.
One participant said that Farm Service Agency-guaranteed loans are becoming more important and suggested raising the limit on the size of the loans. Hoeven noted that he had gotten an increase in the loan limit in the last farm bill, but “not as much as I wanted.” It might be possible to increase the loan limits in the next coronavirus aid package, he added.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.