Aug 10, 2020Agriculture orgs request CFAP deadline extension
In a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, the National Potato Council joined 27 state and national agriculture organizations requesting the department extend the Aug. 28 sign-up deadline for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
The groups argue the deadline may exclude eligible producers from participating in the program, including producers of commodities that were recently added to the list of eligible commodities, including most potato growers.
The letter states that the extended sign-up deadline would “ensure FSA staff has adequate time to process all submitted applications and farmers have ample opportunities to enroll eligible commodities. At the same time, we strongly encourage you to increase producer and stakeholder engagement initiatives. While the Department has done a commendable job in reaching out to all affected parties, communication and outreach by FSA staff has likely been significantly impacted by the lack of face-to-face interactions; in addition, many producers eligible for CFAP may have had limited or no previous interaction with FSA staff. This latter fact likely impacted the estimates of CFAP eligibility and benefits distributed to impacted producers.”
The full letter can be found here.
NPC Calls for Tax Changes to PPP
On Aug. 3, NPC joined 171 business and trade groups on a letter asking for Congress to restore tax-free loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The groups note that “when the PPP was adopted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress made clear that any loan forgiveness under the program would be excluded from the borrower’s taxable income.” However, a recent IRS notice effectively overturned this policy by denying borrowers the ability to deduct the same expenses that qualified them for the loan forgiveness.
Denying the correct tax treatment of PPP loans will result in hardship for many of the more than five million businesses who participated in the program. The groups call on Congress to reaffirm the congressional intent regarding the tax treatment of these forgiven loan amounts and “restore the tax benefits it intended to give distressed Main Street businesses as part of the CARES Act.”
The full letter can be found here.
Senate COVID relief agreement remains elusive; NPC urges more resources
Negotiations continued this week between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on an additional round of COVID-19 relief. The two sides continue to discuss an array of issue, including the continuation of unemployment insurance, funding for state and local governments, and COVID-19 liability protections.
“When the two sides finally get together on the overall funding issues, it will create a vehicle to enact new resources for ag relief,” said Kam Quarles, National Potato Council CEO. “We want to see enhanced flexibility for the CFAP program, including a wider eligibility window (ideally for losses through the end of the year) along with resources for testing and PPE to ensure that our industry can operate efficiently with the harvest beginning,”
As it pertains to ag funding, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chair John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) indicated this week that he would be open to providing additional resources for nutrition programs so long as money is not taken from additional aid to farmers and ranchers to cover the cost. On the other hand, Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) has stated she will not support additional aid to farmers without an increase in SNAP funding.
USDA identifies aid to Belgian potato producers
In a USDA report released recently, the Foreign Agricultural Service identified substantial relief payments for Belgian potato producers. These funds were provided by the Belgian government and sanctioned by the European Union in response to the COVID crisis.
These payments were identified shortly after NPC and the state organizations filed comment with the Office of the Trade Representative regarding surges of Belgian fries entering the U.S. and recommended they be considered for carousel tariff retaliation under the Airbus dispute. The letter specifically noted that the price disparity between U.S. and EU product (including transportation costs) is impacted by factors “including EU agriculture policies that give EU potato growers advantages that U.S. farmers do not have.”
The payments identified by USDA involve $12 million directly to the Belgian potato industry and up to $118,000 per grower or business. Typically aid of this kind by individual countries is prohibited by the EU due to their potential to distort the union’s markets, but the impact of the COVID has caused officials to allow temporary state aid.
— National Potato Council