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WHAT'S IN THE SENATE'S ECONOMIC SECURITY PACKAGE FOR FARMERS
Source: Farm Progress

The Senate advanced by a vote of 96-0 its Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in a vote late Wednesday night in the third tranche of assistance offered by Congress as it attempts to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19). For farmers, the final $2 trillion package includes some specific requests, such as additional lending authority to for the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) and livestock and disaster assistance.

The COVID-19 impact on agriculture includes a rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closure of ethanol plants, the dramatic decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand and the reduction in direct-to-consumer sales.

Ahead of the final deal, 48 agriculture groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, joined together in calling on Congress to expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture's borrowing authority under the CCC. The agreement includes a $14 billion increase in USDA's borrowing authority under the CCC, consistent with a long history of the CCC being tapped to responsibly support agriculture in times of crisis, and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators.

"The aid to farmers in this package, including funding for the CCC and the Office of the Secretary, will allow USDA to begin crafting an appropriate relief program for agriculture," American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said.

The bill also includes direct payments to individuals ($1,200 per individual or $2,400 per married couple), $130 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for local and state governments and $300 billion in financial aid for small businesses. Additionally, it allocates funding for nutrition assistance programs, rural broadband and rural health resources.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said in a statement, "The relief package will provide stability for our farmers and ensure the American people have a safe and stable food supply. Our bipartisan agreement includes targeted assistance to farmers who are experiencing severe financial losses during the pandemic, including fruit and vegetable growers, dairy farmers and local food producers."

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa.), said, "For days, I worked with my Democratic colleagues to craft key tax- and health-related provisions as well as the recovery checks and unemployment insurance. It's a bipartisan product that, regrettably, was hijacked and delayed because of partisan politics, but the important thing is that it's finally approved in the Senate. I urge the speaker of the House to immediately pass this critical relief for the American people, even if it means ending their week-long recess. The needless delays in the Senate have run out the clock. There's no more time to waste."

The legislation includes S. 1089, the Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2019 and the Priority Zoonotic Animal Drug designation -- a zoonotic animal drug priority of Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.). Roberts' zoonotic animal drug priority expedites Food & Drug Administration approval of animal drugs that treat zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, like the novel coronavirus, through a new designation.


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