Representatives from both sides of the aisle support the Expanding Access to Farmers Act
By Diego Flammini
A bipartisan bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives would provide farmers with more options for spending money they receive from the federal government during the pandemic.
On July 16, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-IA-01) unveiled the Expanding Assistance to Farmers Act of 2020. Dan Bishop (R-NC-09) cosponsored the bill.
If passed, the legislation would allow farmers to use Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds to cover rental costs related to equipment, land and buildings.
When the PPP went into effect in March as part of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners could only use the program funds to cover items like payroll costs, interest on mortgages and utilities.
Producers are business owners as well and their unique expenses should be covered under the PPP umbrella, Finkenauer said.
“We’re trying to make sure we provide more clarity to the Small Business Administration to make sure that they do not leave our farmers behind,” she told KMA on Tuesday. “Specifically, some of our beginning farmers and our smaller family farms who may rent land or equipment. When we look at this PPP program, we need to make sure it doesn’t just cover wages, but also the equipment and land to keep people going.”
Farm groups hope the legislation will pass.
Giving farmers more flexibility with the federal funds will help them come out the other side of the pandemic, said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
“While (the PPP) program has been helpful, additional changes can make it even more effective for farmers and ranchers to participate by extending loan forgiveness for rental expenses on agriculture equipment, land and buildings,” he said in a statement. “Farm Bureau commends Congressman Dan Bishop and Congresswoman Finkenauer for providing much-needed assistance to agricultural producers."
Farms.com has reached out to AFBF for comment.