House, Senate pass omnibus/COVID-19 aid package
The House and the Senate late Monday passed the fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations bill and a COVD-19 relief package, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The omnibus appropriations bill will cost $1.4 trillion and the COVD-19 relief package $900 billion.
The measure was split in two in the House.
The House vote on Divisions B,C, E and F was 327 to 85, with 43 Republicans, 41 Democrats and one Independent opposing it.
The House vote on the rest of the combined bill was 359 to 53, with 50 Republicans, two Democrats and one independent opposing it.
The vote in the Senate was 92 to 6.
The legislation contains many provisions affecting agriculture, nutrition programs and rural America. Many groups issued statements explaining the importance of the bill and giving their views on it.
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said the organization is “particularly encouraged by the expansion of SNAP benefits — a crucial step toward ensuring food security for all.”
“It is similarly heartening to see the inclusion of provisions that will revitalize rural economies, such as financial support for the biofuels industry, further assistance for farmers impacted by market disruptions, and more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program,” Larew said.
“Finally, we are pleased by several measures that will strengthen local and regional food systems, help socially disadvantaged farmers, and protect food chain workers — all of which will make the agriculture sector more resilient not just through the end of the pandemic, but long after.”
The Alliance for a Stronger FDA noted that the Food and Drug Administration got $15.25 million for food safety, including an additional $1.2 million for the Center for Food Safety and Nutrition to ensure contaminated food is detected and removed from the marketplace quickly, $5 million to enable FDA to continue regulating the usage of cannabis-derived substances such as cannabidiol, and $6 million for a Shrimp Import Inspection Pilot Program.
Eric Deeble, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, “Making contract growers eligible for aid, dedicating support for PPE for farm and food system workers, investing in local and regional markets and processing infrastructure, and ensuring more farmers can participate in procurement efforts like the Farmers to Families Food Box program show that Congress is taking some overdue steps to assist farmers who need help now.”
Food Research & Action Center President Luis Guardia said he “commends congressional leaders for proposing a COVID-19 relief package that makes an immediate and essential downpayment on nutrition and other critical assistance for tens of millions of people across the country whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.”
Family Farm Action Alliance Senior Policy Advisor Jake Davis said, “Many of the grants, payments, and regulatory changes in this legislation will help working families, small businesses and farmers get through a difficult time.”
“It also begins the process of strengthening our food system which has shown, throughout this pandemic, to be incredibly fragile because of the extreme concentration of power in the hands of a few multinational corporations.”
The Renewable Fuels Association said the bill “clearly specifies that renewable fuel producers are eligible to receive COVID-19 emergency relief aid from USDA” and “extends key tax provisions that support innovation and expansion in the renewable fuels industry, including the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit, and the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon sequestration.”
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor noted that the bill specifically:
▪ Allows for payments to producers of advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, conventional biofuel, or renewable fuel;
▪ Allows qualified small businesses to access a second round of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans;
▪ Includes a one-year extension of the Section 40 Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, a $1.01 credit per gallon of second-generation biofuel produced; and
▪ Includes a two-year extension of the Section 45Q Tax Credit, a credit on a per-ton basis of carbon dioxide that is sequestered.
National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern noted that the package includes nearly $1 billion in targeted support “to help dairy producers continue to feed families throughout these difficult times,” including a dairy donation program, payment limits flexibility, supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage payments and Paycheck Protection Program improvements.
National Pork Producers Council President Howard “AV” Roth noted that the bill includes:
▪ $635 million to ensure U.S. agriculture inspectors are fully funded;
▪ Extension of livestock mandatory price reporting until Sept. 30, 2021;
▪ $20 million in funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network;
▪ $284.5 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which removes restrictive language that prevented some pork producers from eligibility; and
▪ Funding to compensate hog farmers who were forced to euthanize animals due to COVID-related supply chain disruptions, valued at 80% of the animal’s value, and for the cost incurred during the process.
“We are thankful for several vital provisions in the omnibus bill, including strengthening biosecurity at our borders to keep foreign animal diseases (FAD) outside the country. If a FAD were to enter the U.S. swine herd, the consequences would be disastrous, and a devastating blow to hog farmers already teetering on the financial edge due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said the bill contains language that would authorize USDA to provide up to $1 billion to contract chicken growers for revenue losses, earmarked specifically for contract growers of livestock and poultry to cover up to 80% of revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is wonderful holiday news for our farm families who have been working tirelessly through the pandemic to make sure food was one less thing Americans have to worry about as everyone navigated through 2020,” Brown added.
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