Biden administration to oversee new coronavirus payments to farmers

Given the time needed to convert legislation into action, the Biden administration will oversee payment of most or all of the $13 billion in farm aid included in the latest coronavirus package, the undersecretary said Tuesday. to Agriculture Bill Northey. Still, there was a chance that some funds could flow before the end of January, or even before the January 20 change of administration, Northey told a news conference.

“We definitely have things that we would like to be able to release very quickly,” said Northey, who oversees farm grants. He did not give details. Some proposals are awaiting approval from the White House Budget Office, so “we have nothing to announce now.”

Farmers would receive payments of $20 per acre, or about $5 billion in total, on crops that have suffered a price drop of at least 5% over a specified period, according to the 900 package. billion dollars on coronaviruses signed a week ago by President Trump. Farmers would be compensated for animals slaughtered due to the pandemic. The package also created a $400 million dairy donation program, aid for contract poultry farmers, and aid for textile mills and possibly ethanol refineries.

President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he will offer additional pandemic relief after taking office, was scheduled to speak on the economy on Wednesday.

The USDA spent two months designing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), the main channel for helping farmers, after Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES bill in March, said Northey. The process included cost-benefit analyses, obtaining White House approval, and software for USDA agencies to use to administer the program.

“A lot of these provisions would be such that they will definitely get us through January 20,” said Northey, a Trump appointee. “But we have a few things that maybe we can incorporate into other efforts that we’re trying to do, or that don’t require as much implementation.”

As an example of items that could require lengthy preparation, Northey pointed to a provision that allows the USDA to compensate producers for up to 80% of the value of poultry and livestock that have been slaughtered due to safeguards in slaughterhouses. “These are challenges,” he said, in deciding what constitutes depopulation and what evidence is needed for payment.

The coronavirus package also makes cattle farmers eligible for additional payments and it has allocated up to $1 billion to cover up to 80% of revenue lost by contract poultry farmers due to the pandemic. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow estimated that up to $3 billion could be spent on “plus” payments for livestock, assistance to contract poultry farmers and slaughtered livestock.

Pandemic payments would cushion an expected sharp decline in farm income this year from subsidy-fueled highs in 2020. Federal farm payments provided 39% of net farm income of $119.6 billion last year . Net farm income is a USDA profitability indicator.

Some $23.5 billion in CFAP payments have been made to farmers and ranchers since late May, according to a USDA tally on Monday.

The agricultural safety net is expected to weaken in coming years, according to a third of farmers participating in a Purdue University poll released on Tuesday. The telephone survey, conducted from December 7 to 11, also found that seven out of 10 large-scale producers expect higher taxes and eight out of 10 expect tougher environmental regulations over the next five years. .

Nevertheless, “increased farm incomes brought about by the continued rise in crop prices appear to be driving” a rise in farmers’ optimism. The farm economy barometer reading of 174 was the second highest since Purdue began the monthly survey in October 2015.

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