After months of partisan disagreements and bickering, Congress finally approved a $900 billion coronavirus economic assistance package to help stimulate the economy hit hard by the pandemic. It includes $600 payments for many Americans, expands a lending program for small businesses, provides additional support for nutrition, agriculture, schools, airlines, rail, and transit systems, and vaccine distribution. Unemployed individuals will receive an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021. This compares to $600 per week under the CARES Act.
The bill provides $13 billion in COVID-related assistance to support producers, growers, processors, specialty crops, dairy, livestock, poultry, and contract livestock and poultry producers and $13 billion in nutrition assistance.
Key agriculture provisions:
- Provides $20 per acre Coronavirus Assistance Program Payment for producers of price trigger crops and flat rate crops. This includes barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton and all classes of wheat.
- Payments to producers for losses incurred due to the depopulation of livestock and poultry due to insufficient processing access. Compensation will be made at 80% of the animal’s fair market value.
- Provides $20 million for animal disease prevention and response capacity.
- $1 billion for contract growers of livestock and poultry to cover losses.
- Supplemental CFAP payments to cattle producers.
- $60 billion to assist meat and poultry slaughtering and processing facilities to make improvements that will allow for interstate shipment.
- Requires USDA to submit a study to Congress on the availability of financing for new and existing meat and poultry processing capacity.
- A livestock dealer trust is established to benefit unpaid sellers of livestock.
- Extends the term of marketing assistance loans to 12 months.
- Gives the agriculture secretary the authority to make payments to producers of advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, conventional biofuel or renewable fuel.
The legislation will now allow farmers to deduct the expenses covered by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The bill increases the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) monthly benefits by 15% for six months. It provides $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program for the distribution of commodities through food banks.
The coronavirus aid package was combined with the $1.4 trillion fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill that will fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year, September 30, 2021.
Trump puts COVID aid package in jeopardy
The future of the aid package is now in jeopardy. The day after Congress passed the bill, President Trump in a video stated his strong displeasure in the legislation, even though it had been negotiated by his treasury secretary and other administration officials. Trump said the payments to individuals were “ridiculously low,” should be $2,000 instead of $600 and called on Congress to increase the payments.
Trump did not directly vow to veto the bill. However, if Trump vetoes the bill, the federal government will shut down and there would be no additional assistance for small businesses and struggling individuals and families.
Food and ag workers next for COVID vaccines
Frontline essential workers, including food and agricultural workers, and individuals 75 years and older should be the next group, Phase 1b, to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. This is the recommendation the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices forwarded to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Phase 1b group represents approximately 49 million individuals.
The advisory committee also voted to recommend the third group, Phase 1C, to receive the vaccine would include “other essential workers,” including workers in foodservice, energy, transportation and logistics, and senior citizens younger than 75. This group represents nearly 129 million people
“Priority access to vaccines is a critical step for the long-term safety of the selfless frontline meat and poultry workers who have kept America’s refrigerators full and our farm economy working,” said North American Meat Institute (NAMI) president Julie Anna Potts. “Meat Institute members stand ready to support vaccination for our diverse workforce, which will also deliver wide-ranging health benefits in rural and high-risk communities. Meat and poultry leaders may also be able to aid vaccination for all Americans, for example by offering state-of-the-art cold storage for these precious vaccines.”
Mark Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), commented, “America’s essential workers in grocery, meatpacking, and food processing have been on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to feed our families during this crisis. With COVID-19 cases continuing to skyrocket, hundreds of these essential workers have already died and thousands more are infected daily as they serve our country by keeping our food supply secure.”
Earlier this month, NAMI, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and National Pork Producers Council sent letters to the nation’s governors urging them to prioritize workers in the meat and poultry industries for receiving the vaccine.
Mandatory Livestock Reporting extended
The appropriations bill passed by Congress extends the Mandatory Livestock Reporting (MLR) requirement until September 30, 2021.
Seng honored by Japan
Phil Seng, former president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, is receiving the “The Order of the Rising Sun” from the Japanese government for his contributions “strengthening Japan-U.S. economic relations, particularly in the meat field, and promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.” This is the highest order conferred on individuals by the Japanese government.
Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.