USDA announces more pandemic aid
WASHINGTON — USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on June 15 additional aid to agricultural producers and businesses as part of the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
The programming is planned for implementation within 60 days, which the agency said will continue to be focused on filling gaps in previous rounds of assistance and helping beginning, socially disadvantaged and small and medium sized producers that need support.
Part of the initiative is aid for poultry and livestock producers left out of previous rounds of pandemic assistance, including contract poultry growers and livestock and poultry producers forced to euthanize animals during the pandemic (March 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020). The announcement comes after a bipartisan group of 15 senators and 46 representatives joined leaders of the Senate Chicken Caucus, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), in sending USDA a letter urging faster movement on getting aid to poultry growers approved in earlier legislation.
“COVID-19 has severely affected the bottom lines of agricultural producers across the country, including many chicken growers in our home states. On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included additional resources for USDA to continue supporting American farmers,” the letter stated. “The bill also included funding for USDA to provide direct payments for contract chicken growers who previously had been excluded from assistance provided by the CFAP. We are concerned by the fact that these chicken growers still have not received federal assistance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The passed appropriations act authorized USDA to provide up to $1 billion in assistance to contract chicken growers for revenue losses sustained as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This fund was earmarked specifically for contract growers of livestock and poultry to cover up to 80 percent of revenue losses.
“As the USDA continues to assist farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, we respectfully request that the Department expedite the rulemaking process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers,” the Chicken Caucus letter said.
The initiative also provides:
• $200 million to small, family-owned timber harvesting and hauling businesses
• $700 million: Biofuels producers
• $400 million toward the new Dairy Donation Program to address food insecurity and mitigate food waste and loss
• Approximately $580 million for Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage for small and medium farms
• Additional pandemic payments targeted to dairy farmers that have demonstrated losses that have not been covered by previous pandemic assistance
• $700 million in Pandemic Response and Safety Grants to reimburse producers, processors, distributors, and farmers’ markets (including seafood processors and vessels) for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other worker protection measures associated with pandemic response
• Up to $20 million in additional organic cost share assistance, including for producers who are transitioning to USDA Organic certification
As the economy continues to gain strength, USDA said it is working with producers and agricultural businesses to ensure they have the resources and tools to thrive in 2021 and beyond.
The funding associated with USDA Pandemic Assistance is meant to serve as a bridge from disruptions associated with the pandemic to longer-term investments to help build back a better food system.
“We have more work to do to build back a better food system, strengthen our supply chains, and make sure American agriculture gives our farming and ranching families every opportunity to earn a good living,” said Vilsack. “As the economy continues to bounce back, USDA will ensure American agriculture is ready to seize the moment.”