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USDA announces additional COVID aid

Legislative Watch: Additional COVID aid announced; Hauling relief for ag; End death tax; National Agriculture Day.

P. Scott Shearer

March 26, 2021

6 Min Read
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USDA announced it was providing $6 billion in support for producers impacted by the pandemic through a new program, "USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers," that will reach a broader group of producers.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "Our new USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative will help get financial assistance to a broader set of producers, including to socially disadvantaged communities, small- and medium- sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops."

The $6 billion is part of the $12.1 billion in funding USDA announced that includes modifications to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and new money for various USDA programs. 

According to USDA, the $6 billion is to "Expand Help & Assistance to More Producers."  These efforts include:

  • Dairy farmers through the Dairy Donation Program or other means:

  • Euthanized livestock and poultry;

  • Biofuels;

  • Specialty crops, beginning farmers, local, urban and organic farms;

  • Costs for organic certification or to continue or add conservation activities

  • Other possible expansion and corrections to CFAP that were not part of today’s announcement such as to support dairy or other livestock producers;

  • Timber harvesting and hauling;

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other protective measures for food and farm workers and specialty crop and seafood producers, processors and distributors;

  • Improving the resilience of the food supply chain, including assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment;

  • Developing infrastructure to support donation and distribution of perishable commodities, including food donation and distribution through farm-to-school, restaurants or other community organizations; and

  • Reducing food waste.

USDA is expediting additions to CFAP assistance. In addition, USDA is re-opening the signup for CFAP 2 for 60 days beginning on April 5. The assistance includes:

  • An increase in CFAP 1 payment rates for cattle. Cattle producers with approved CFAP 1 applications will automatically receive these payments beginning in April. Information on the additional payment rates for cattle can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Eligible producers do not need to submit new applications, since payments are based on previously approved CFAP 1 applications. USDA estimates additional payments of more than $1.1 billion to more than 410,000 producers, according to the mandated formula.

  • Additional CFAP assistance of $20 per acre for producers of eligible crops identified as CFAP 2 flat-rate or price-trigger crops beginning in April. This includes alfalfa, corn, cotton, hemp, peanuts, rice, sorghum, soybeans, sugar beets and wheat, among other crops. FSA will automatically issue payments to eligible price trigger and flat-rate crop producers based on the eligible acres included on their CFAP 2 applications. Eligible producers do not need to submit a new CFAP 2 application. For a list of all eligible row-crops, visit farmers.gov/cfap. USDA estimates additional payments of more than $4.5 billion to more than 560,000 producers, according to the mandated formula.

Additional information on CFAP can be found at farmers.gov/cfap.

USDA is providing approximately $500 million in additional assistance through existing programs including:

  • $100 million in additional funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which enhances the competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops.

  • $75 million in additional funding for the Farmers Opportunities Training and Outreach program, administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, which encourages and assists socially disadvantaged, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers in the ownership and operation of farms and ranches.

  • $100 million in additional funding for the Local Agricultural Marketing Program, administered by the AMS and Rural Development, which supports the development, coordination and expansion of direct producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets and enterprises and value-added agricultural products.

  • $75 million in additional funding for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, administered by the NIFA, which provides funding opportunities to conduct and evaluate projects providing incentives to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers

  • $20 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to improve and maintain animal disease prevention and response capacity, including the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

  • $20 million for the Agricultural Research Service to work collaboratively with Texas A&M on the critical intersection between responsive agriculture, food production, and human nutrition and health.

  • $28 million for NIFA to provide grants to state departments of agriculture to expand or sustain existing farm stress assistance programs.

  • Approximately $80 million in additional payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton based on a formula set in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that USDA plans to deliver through the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills program.

Hauling relief for ag

Bipartisan legislation, the "Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act," was introduced by Senators Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Jon Tester D-Mont., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., which will provide flexibility for agricultural haulers. 

The legislation would:

  • Eliminate the requirement that ag and livestock hours-of-service (HOS) exemptions only apply during state designated planting and harvesting seasons.

  • Amend and clarify the definition of “agricultural commodities” based on feedback provided by agriculture and livestock organizations.

  • Authorize a 150 air-mile exemption from HOS requirements on the destination side of a haul for ag and livestock haulers.

Currently hours-of-service rules allow for 11 hours of drive time, 14 hours of on-duty time and 10 consecutive hours of rest. 

National Cattlemen's Beef Association's President Jerry Bohne in supporting the bill said, "Congress must provide livestock haulers with the flexibility they need to maintain the highest level of safety on the roads, transport livestock humanely, and ensure beef remains available to consumers."

Mike Seyfert, president of the National Grain and Feed Association, said: "By expanding the agricultural exemption to trucking hours-of-service rules, Sen. Fischer’s HAULS Act of 2021 would greatly increase the rules’ usefulness for agricultural haulers across the country. Moreover, the bill’s addition of feed ingredients would clarify that agricultural products, such as soybean meal and distillers grains, are eligible for the agricultural exemption and create more certainty in the trucking rules."

End Death Tax

Senator John Thune, R-S.D., and Representatives Jason Smith R-Mo., and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., have introduced the "Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021" which would permanently repeal the inheritance tax or commonly referred to as the "Death Tax."

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily doubled the estate tax exemption to $10 million per person indexed for inflation through 2025. Without congressional action, that exemption will revert to $5 million per person in 2026.

The legislation is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Federation of Independen Business (NFIB), National Association of Manufacturers, and Associated General Contractors of America.

National Agriculture Day

President Joe Biden declared March 23 as National Agriculture Day to recognize the value that farmers, ranchers, foresters and farm workers contribute to the Nation. 

Biden said in the proclamation, "On National Agriculture Day, we recognize the unique and irreplaceable value that farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards have contributed to our Nation’s past and present.  America’s agriculture sector safeguards our Nation’s lands through sustainable management; ensures the health and safety of animals, plants, and people; provides a safe and abundant food supply; and facilitates opportunities for prosperity and economic development in rural America."


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.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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