Peterson: SBA fix should be in this week’s coronavirus bill
The Small Business Administration is still balking at making farmers eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program that was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but the coronavirus aid that Congress hopes to pass by Friday should contain a provision to instruct SBA that farmers are eligible, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in a tele-town hall to his constituents.
Farmers are not normally eligible for SBA programs, and the SBA initial rule on the EIDL program said farmers were not eligible, although farm co-ops and other farm businesses are. Farm leaders in Congress have noted that the bill does not exclude farmers from the program and have said it was congressional intent to include them. Peterson said he had been “promised for the last week” that SBA would change its position, but SBA has not done that.
Peterson added that congressional leaders plan to direct SBA to include farmers in a provision in the bill and to provide SBA with another $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection, so “we will see what happens on Friday.” A knowledgeable source said that the effort is bipartisan, with Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and House Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., leading the effort.
Democrats on Wednesday proposed changes to the SBA bill written by Senate Republicans, and the White House was balking at the changes, Politico reported. The Democratic changes included increasing benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 15%.
It is unclear whether congressional Republicans and Democrats and the Trump administration can reach agreement to pass the bill without roll call votes that would require Congress to return to Washington, but there is tremendous pressure to provide more money to the SBA program.
Turning to Agriculture Department programs, Peterson said that the requests from farm groups for aid through the $9.5 billion emergency fund and the Commodity Credit Corporation add up to more than Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wants to spend at this time. Perdue does not want to deplete the CCC authority, Peterson added. Perdue is attempting to figure out how much damage the coronavirus has done to each agriculture sector and will announce payments by acre or animal, probably in the next week or two, Peterson said.
The situation of dairy farmers is particularly dire, Peterson said, but with corn priced at $2.85 per bushel and soybeans under $8 per bushel, “it is a tough situation. I have farmers calling me up and asking whether it makes sense to plant or not. We are going to be in a big challenge to get this economy going again.”