Dec 21, 2020COVID relief bill includes $13 billion for agriculture
Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), the current chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, led a bipartisan effort to increase aid for food producers in the latest $900 billion COVID relief package.
The final bill includes a 15% increase in SNAP benefits and provides additional funding for food banks and senior nutrition programs. Also, the bill includes $13 billion in food purchases and direct support for farmers and ranchers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hunger crisis that has touched every part of our nation,” Stabenow said through a statement. “As many as 50 million Americans are not able to feed themselves and their families. After many months of pushing for a critical SNAP increase and other funding to address the hunger crisis in our country, I am very pleased that we finally reached a bipartisan agreement that will help both families and farmers in need. Farmers will receive the support they need to keep their farms and businesses going. I am relieved that help is on the way and I look forward to continuing to do more in the New Year to help Americans through this continuing crisis.”
Congress is expected to vote on the bill Dec. 21.
Some of the key components for agriculture include:
- Provides an estimated $225 million for supplemental payments to producers of specialty crops if they lost their crop in 2019.
- Provides up to $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers, contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry due to COVID crisis.
- Supports fruit and vegetable producers by including $100 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) to support specialty crops and enhance their resiliency and ability to respond to COVID-19 through investments in marketing of crops, increasing training, and investing in research, among other uses.
- Provides an estimated $5 billion for supplemental $20 per acre payments to all row crop producers.
- Supports healthy food purchases by including $75 million for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and provides additional flexibilities to directly respond to COVID-19 by incentivizing purchases of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants which supports farmers and retailers and stimulates local economies.
- Supports local agriculture and farmers markets by including $100 million for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and provides additional flexibilities to help producers, local food businesses, and farmers markets respond to supply chain issues and adapt to local market conditions due to COVID-19.
- Supports underserved farmers and ranchers by including $75 million for the Farming Opportunities Training Outreach (FOTO) program and provides additional flexibilities to support minority, tribal, veteran and beginning famers access to USDA disaster programs and help adapt their farm businesses to respond to COVID-19.
- Supports farmers’ mental health by including $28 million in state block grants to support farmer and rancher stress management due to COVID-19.