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Serving: United States
Coronavirus
082819PerdueAtPodiumFPS1040.jpg Austin Keating

Farm groups jockey for COVID-19 aid

CARES Act contains money for ag, Secretary Perdue gets to decide how to spend it.

As USDA works on the plans for COVID-19 aid for producers and President Trump puts the finishing touches on his farm aid package, farm groups and senators are lobbying for aid for their sectors.

The National Farmers Union is urging USDA to " swiftly and efficiently implement assistance and distribute resources” to family farmers and ranchers and rural communities." NFU President Rob Larew talked about the health of rural resident as well as their financial well-being. “Perhaps there has never been a time when the Secretary of Agriculture was burdened with as much responsibility for the health and economic well-being of rural America as you carry today,” Larew said in the Aberdeen News. “The actions of your department in the coming days, weeks, and months will be extremely important in securing the future of rural communities, the health of their residents, and the strength of their economies."

On April 6, 15 senators submitted a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stabilization Act go to the assist the biofuels industry, according to the National Law Review.

Rep. Collin C. Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, led fellow members of the Biofuels Caucus in urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to support the biofuels industry. “The biofuels industry entered this crisis behind the curve following the last few years of disastrous management of the RFS program by the EPA. The biofuels industry is going to need significant support to weather this disaster.”

The National Milk Producers Federation is asking USDA and the Labor Department to accept and approve more H-2A visa applications for immigrant laborers who work in the dairy industry, KTIC Radio reports. The NMPF says granting dairy laborer visas for 364 days aligns the dairy industry with sheep and goat herders.

Meanwhile, producers who dumped milk because processors turned it away will not be penalized, USDA's Risk Management Agency says. RMA is allowing the dumped milk to be counted as milk marketings for the Dairy Revenue Production or actual marketings for the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy programs, according to KMCH.com

The beef industry is coping with problems too, with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Sen. Deb Fischer writing the Trump administration to look into anticompetitive behavior in the industry. The administration said it would.

American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox called for relief for sheep and wool producers. He said estimates show a projected direct farm level loss of $125 million due to significant declines in feeder and slaughter lamb prices as a result of the loss in consumer demand for American lamb. Total economic impact to the American lamb industry migh be in excess of $300 million, Cox wrote in a letter to Perdue.

More than 30 senators called on Perdue to give aid to small farmers who are the backbone of the farm-to-table movement. In the Roll Call article, the senators said small farmers who can show that at least 25% of their total income comes from local sales should be eligible for direct payments administered by the Farm Service Agency to cover lost revenue and additional costs to comply with COVID-19 health guidelines 

Family farm organizations in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota are calling for strong oversight of the recently passed aid package.

Congress was vague in its directions to USDA on how to spend the money and the department is being scrutinized for how it doled out the Market Facilitation Program money, Politico reports. Perdue said he wants to get the money out the door ASAP, with a "balanced and fair" disbursement.

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