Oct 26, 2020More than $6 billion worth of CFAP2 payments awarded
As of Oct. 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had nearly 350,000 applications and awarded more $6.13 billion through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2.0. Payment categories from highest to lowest were: acreage-based ($3.2 billion); livestock ($1.7 billion); dairy ($625 million); sales commodities ($600 million); and eggs/broilers ($13 million).
Last-minute change by Mexican Gov’t impacts ag trade
Over the past few weeks, the National Potato Council (NPC) and the industry have been working with partners in the U.S. government to address Mexico’s unexpected and last-minute change to its front of pack nutritional labeling regulation. With no prior notice, Mexico stripped an exemption for foodservice product from new regulations requiring large stickers on the front of packages to provide consumers with nutritional information. The impromptu amendment has caused significant issues for exports of processed potatoes and other food products to Mexico.
“This technical barrier to trade has caused problems for a great number of U.S. and other countries’ ag exports to Mexico. There is no value in requiring consumer labels on product that no consumer will ever see,” said Kam Quarles, NPC CEO.
Last week, the issue was discussed at length at the USMCA Technical Barriers to Trade meeting between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative continues to raise concerns with Mexico about the action and is awaiting a formal response from Mexican authorities. The U.S. potato industry, through the work of the American Potato Trade Alliance (APTA), continues to support the U.S. government’s efforts to address this restrictive regulation with Mexican authorities.
Pre-election COVID relief prospects unlikely
On Oct. 20, the Senate voted on a standalone reauthorization of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which would have provided $258 billion for a second round of forgivable loans. However, the 57 votes fell short of the 60-vote threshold to advance the legislation.
Following the failed PPP vote, on Oct. 21, the Senate also failed to end debate on the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools, and Small Businesses Act, which included $500 billion for additional unemployment benefits, $100 billion for schools, and additional funding for testing, contact tracing and vaccine development. The proposal also included $20 billion for USDA to support agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by the coronavirus. The so-called “skinny bill,” sponsored by the Senate Republicans, was nearly identical to the one defeated in September and again failed to advance along party lines with 51 Republican Senators voting for the legislation and 44 Democrats voting against.
At the same time as the Senate votes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued negotiating a COVID-19 relief package. On Oct. 21, Pelosi indicated progress in reaching an agreement but tempered expectations of a deal being reached and voted on before Election Day on Nov. 3.
PSA Wants to Showcase Your Sustainable Farming Practices
U.S. and Canadian potato growers have made major strides to improve the environmental impact of growing potatoes. The Potato Sustainability Alliance (PSA) would like to highlight these farms and showcase the work of growers to drive improvements in sustainability. PSA is inviting U.S. and Canadian growers to submit pictures or video that represents all the hard work they do to grow potatoes sustainably. Click here to learn more.
USDA announces fourth round of Food Box purchases
Oct. 23, the USDA announced it has authorized $500 million for a fourth round of purchases for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The Department expects to award contracts by Oct. 30 for deliveries of food boxes from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. The program will continue the purchase of combination boxes to include fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, and meat products. USDA announced contracts for the third round on Sept. 17, 2020, and has purchased more than $2.981 billion worth of food, to date. For more information click here.
— National Potato Council