USDA Briefing Farmers and Ranchers on Aid as Democrats Propose More
The House is expected to vote Friday on a new $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill that would authorize another $16.5 billion in direct farm payments, plus additional aid for biofuels plants and dairy producers.
The HEROES Act also would authorize UDSA to compensate livestock and poultry producers who have had to euthanize hogs or destroy chickens that couldn’t be processed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., emphasized Tuesday the Senate is in no hurry to negotiate a new bill, and he derided the House measure as “aspirational.” One senator, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, told reporters Republicans could wait two or three weeks before starting talks on a bill.
The House bill, which will be a starting point for the negotiations, covers a broad array of Democratic priorities, including aid to pension funds, an elimination of the cap on deductions of state and local taxes, aid to state and local governments, and an extension of expanded unemployment benefits.
Also included in the measure is a 15% increase in SNAP benefits Democrats have been trying to get in previous coronavirus relief bills.
The bill may be a non-starter in the Senate, but the legislation’s biofuel provisions alone give vulnerable Midwest Democrats something to talk about back home.
Farm groups were notably slow to comment on the bill. The biofuel industry, however, welcomed provisions authorizing assistance to their companies. The National Pork Producers Council released a statement specifically endorsing only the bill’s livestock provisions.
A proposal backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation to raise USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. spending authority from $30 billion to $68 billion wasn’t included in the measure.
Thursday’s USDA webinar is scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT. Questions can be sent to USDA through the Q&A box or by emailing CFAP.firstname.lastname@example.org. The answers, and a recording of the webinar, will be posted at farmers.gov/CFAP.
The USDA rule laying out limits and eligibility requirements for the payments was still listed as under White House review as of Tuesday but could be released any day. Scheduling Thursday’s webinar is “good sign” the rule is being released soon, one lobbyist said.