The Senate and House each introduced aid packages within the last two months
By Diego Flammini
U.S. lawmakers have included the ag sector in latest COVID-19 relief bills.
On July 27, the Senate introduced its Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, which would provide $1 trillion in total federal relief spending.
The ag sector would receive a significant portion of the total.
The HEALS Act earmarks $20 billion to Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s department to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers, growers and processors impacted by coronavirus, including producers, growers, and processors of specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry, including livestock and poultry depopulated due to insufficient processing access and growers who produce livestock or poultry under a contract for another entity.”
If passed, the HEALS Act, combined with March’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, would provide the USDA with $43.5 billion to design and deploy ag assistance programs related to COVID-19.
In addition, the HEALS Act sets aside $457 million for the USDA to address other issues including making up for lost user fees.
“We are grateful to Leader McConnell and Senate Leadership for placing a high priority on bringing relief to America’s farmers and ranchers throughout this crisis. The additional $20 billion for agriculture in the HEALS Act would come at a critical time as the impact of this pandemic continues to hit our farms and rural communities,” Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a July 28 statement.
The House of Representatives introduced and passed its own additional COVID-19 relief package in May.
On May 15, the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a stimulus package worth $3 trillion.
U.S. ag is included in that bill too.
The House bill includes $16.5 billion for direct payments to farmers, $20 million to help connect farmers with stress-assistance resources, $100 million in funding to help manage the specialty crop supply chain and $50 million to support new and beginning farmers with financial and operational advice.
The House and Senate need each other’s co-operation to see one of the bills pass to the president’s desk.