President Donald Trump signed the $2.3 trillion government spending and coronavirus relief package Dec. 27, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal.
The deal includes a $900 billion pandemic relief package and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September. Trump delayed signing the bill, even after it passed the U.S. House and Senate with wide margins, demanding the amount of direct payments for Americans be increased from $600 to $2,000.
The U.S. House passed a measure to increase the stimulus check to $2,000 Dec. 28 with wide bipartisan support, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an effort to boost the payment amount Dec. 29.
What’s in it for ag
The relief package includes about $13 billion for agricultural programs, according to an American Farm Bureau analysis. That’s about 1.4% of the total spending in the bill.
“Farmers who were left out of previous aid packages or whose losses were far more devastating than recognized in initial aid are grateful that their families will be helped, too,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president, in a Dec. 21 statement after the bill passed Congress.
About $11.2 billion is slated for direct financial assistance for commodity farmers. Some farmers will be eligible for a payment of $20 per acre for certain non-specialty crops. This includes “price trigger crops” like barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton and wheat, and “flat rate crops” like alfalfa, amaranth grain, buckwheat, canola, cotton, crambe, einkorn, emmer, flax, guar, hemp, indigo, industrial rice, kenaf, khorasan, millet, mustard, oats, peanuts, quinoa, rapeseed, rice, rice, sweet, rice, wild, rye, safflower, sesame, speltz, sugar beets, sugarcane, teff and triticale.
Poultry farmers that were left out of prior relief efforts are included in $1 billion going to contract poultry and livestock farmers. Farmers who had to euthanize animals due to lost markets or lack of processing access can receive up to 80% of fair market value of euthanized animals and the cost of euthanization.
To help the bottlenecked processing industry, $60 million is committed to a grant program to help meat and poultry processors upgrade to federal inspection status or Cooperative Interstate Shipment program status.
There is $1.5 billion committed to purchase food and agricultural products that will be donated through nonprofit organizations, ala this year’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. There’s also a dairy-only donation program funded at $400 million.
Additionally, $200 million is going to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that experienced a loss of 10% of more in revenue during 2020; $75 million is going to the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program for grants for beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers impacted by COVID-19; and $28 million for grants for state departments of agriculture to expand or support stress assistance programs, not to exceed $500,000 per state.
The National Farmers Union said the bill is a starting point, not a destination, and urged the incoming Biden administration to build on the efforts and offer additional relief as needed.
“We have a long road to recovery ahead of us, and a $600 check only goes so far,” said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, in a statement.
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