Perdue announces $19 billion COVID-19 farm aid package
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue held a news conference tonight at which he began to reveal details of a farm aid package that has already been announced by President Donald Trump and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D.
At a White House news conference today, Trump announced a new $19 billion relief package to assist American farmers who have been financially hurt by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
“The aid package includes a mass government purchase of $3 billion in dairy, produce and meat products and $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers to bolster their income,” Perdue said at the White House, USA Today said.
“This will help our farmers and our ranchers and it’s money well deserved,” Trump told reporters at the news conference.
In the evening news conference, Perdue said USDA could not provide all the aid that farm and ranch groups had asked for in “the initial tranche,” an indication that the Trump administration expects that there will be more aid in the future.
“We will have to see where the gaps are,” Perdue said.
But he added that industry groups tend to send in estimates of needs on the high side, and that USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson had done a good job on calculating the trade aid payments.
Perdue said he hopes the direct payments will be sent to farmers by May.
Hoeven said USDA will provide:
$16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers, funded using the $9.5 billion emergency Hoeven secured in the CARES Act and $6.5 billion in Credit Commodity Corporation funding and
▪ $3 billion in purchases of agriculture products, including meat, dairy and produce to support producers and provide food to those in need. USDA will work with local food and regional distributors to deliver food to food banks, as well as community and faith-based organizations to provide food to those in need.
Hoeven said USDA will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers, including:
$9.6 billion for the livestock industry, including $5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy and $1.6 billion for hogs
▪ $3.9 billion for row crop producers
▪ $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers
▪ $500 million for others crops
Producers will receive a single payment determined using two calculations:
Price losses that occurred January 1-April 15, 2020. Producers will be compensated for 85% of price loss during that period.
▪ Second part of the payment will be expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters, and will cover 30% of expected losses.
The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. Qualified commodities must have experienced a 5% price decrease between January and April.
USDA is expediting the rule making process for the direct payment program and expects to begin sign-up for the new program in early May and to get payments out to producers by the end of May or early June, Hoeven said.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said, “The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will distribute $19 billion to support farmers, ranchers, and consumers.”
“Direct payments totaling $16 billion will assist producers of beef, pork, dairy, row crops, produce, and others whose markets have been disrupted or lost due to the COVID-19 emergency. USDA will use $3 billion to purchase and distribute excess produce, dairy, and meat to local and regional foodbanks and non-profit organizations.”
“America’s farmers and ranchers are resilient, and these are incredibly tough times,” Roberts said. “Delivering this much needed relief expediently and efficiently will help producers manage their operations, as well as put food on the tables of folks who need it most.”
“I thank President Trump and Secretary Perdue for listening to our input and delivering resources during this trying time. I will continue to engage with the Administration to make sure the needs of rural America are heard and addressed,” Roberts said.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “We’re grateful to President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for working together to come to the aid of America’s farmers and ranchers.”
“The coronavirus pandemic forced the closing of restaurants, schools and college cafeterias, causing commodity prices to fall off a cliff and serious disruptions to food supply chains. This $16 billion in aid will help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather.
“The plan to purchase $3 billion in meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables will help to stabilize markets and keep farms afloat so they can go about the business of feeding America. Farmers and ranchers proudly accept the responsibility of feeding this nation and it’s heartbreaking to be forced to dispose of milk and plow under crops of fresh food at a time when others are going hungry. We also appreciate the additional funding from other sources to help deliver food from farms to food banks.
“We look forward to additional details about how the aid will be distributed.”
But the relief package left behind the workers in the ethanol industry, the Renewable Fuels Association said.
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “While we appreciate that USDA’s new program provides needed assistance to the nation’s farmers and ranchers, it is unfortunate and disappointing that the 350,000 workers supported by America’s ethanol industry were left behind.”
“USDA missed a crucial opportunity to lend a helping hand to an industry that is suffering the worst economic crisis in its history,” Cooper said. “Roughly half of the ethanol industry is shut down today, as fuel demand has collapsed in response to COVID-19. Corn demand and prices have plummeted as plants across the country are idling.
“Jobs are being lost, grain markets are being ravaged, rural communities are being destabilized, and the long-term future of homegrown renewable fuels hangs in the balance.
“But even in the face of tremendous adversity, ethanol producers have stepped forward to help in the battle against coronavirus by ramping up production of high-purity alcohol for hand sanitizer and continuing to supply animal feed and captured carbon dioxide to the food supply chain.”