Legislative Watch: Ag provisions in new COVID package; groups support WTO; Mandatory Price Reporting extended with continuing resolution.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

October 2, 2020

3 Min Read
Stimulus check
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The House of Representatives passed a $2.2 trillion updated version of the Heroes Act on a party line vote after negotiations with the White House stalled. The bill is a scaled-down version from the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act passed by the House in May. Indications are negotiations will continue even after the House vote.

The bill contains a number of agricultural provisions that were in the earlier Heroes Act — additional support for dairy producers; expansion of the Soil Health and Income Protection Program, a pilot set-aside program created by the 2018 farm bill and an increase of 15% in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

In addition the bill includes:

  • Livestock Dealer Trust Fund: Establishes a livestock dealer trust fund that ensures livestock producers making cash transactions will be paid.

  • Assistance for market-ready livestock and poultry: Provides payments for livestock and poultry that are depopulated due to processing plant shut-downs. Packer-owned animals are not eligible.

  • Contract growers: Provides $1.25 billion to assist contract growers of livestock and poultry who face revenue losses because of COVID-19.

  • Plant improvements and interstate shipment: Establishes a grant program to help upgrade processing facilities that want to become federally inspected which will allow them to sell across state lines.

  •  Meat and poultry processing reports: Requires USDA to report on availability and structure of U.S. meat and processing and a report on the availability of financing for new and existing meat and poultry facilities.

The bill provides additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program; increases support for the hard-hit airline and restaurant industries; includes another round of stimulus payments up to $1,200 to individuals earning an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 and up to $2,400 for couples earning up to $150,000; and provides $600 enhanced unemployment benefits through Jan. 31.

The Senate is not expected to consider another COVID assistance package until after the election.

Ag supports WTO
The United States remaining in the World Trade Organization is critical for U.S. agriculture, according to a group of 63 agricultural companies and businesses. The group reminded Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative that the WTO provides U.S. agriculture with "most-favored nation" treatment in 163 countries which represents over 80% of the global economy and "over half of the world trade is now tariff free."

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and key Congressional leaders, agriculture and trade leaders say, "The existing WTO rules and the day-to-day work of its committees and secretariat to provide transparency and accountability from its members remains critical to future export growth, for America's farmers and ranchers, and the millions of American jobs — most of them off-the-farm — that are linked to and dependent upon U.S. agriculture."

The group indicates with the upcoming replacement of the WTO director general this gives an opportunity to reform the WTO that will increase U.S. agriculture's access to foreign markets and maintain transparency and accountability.

Those signing the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Animal Health Institute, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute, North American Renderers Association and USA Rice Federation.

The WTO has recently been under attack by the administration and various Congressional members. President Trump has threatened to pull out of the WTO and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a resolution calling on the United States to withdraw from the WTO.

The United States has won approximately 80% of the agricultural cases it has filed with the WTO.

Continuing resolution until Dec. 11
President Trump signed a continuing resolution that will keep the federal government operating until Dec. 11. The CR extends the Mandatory Price Reporting program until then. MPR was set to expire on Sept. 30.

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.

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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