Congressional Update: COVID-19 & Agriculture

Georgia growers, in case you are interested, the following is today’s update on Congressional activity on ag related COVID-19 impact in Washington DC, from our NCGA DC office, authored by Brooke Appleton.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration (SBA) has struck a deal with a bipartisan group of Senators to publicly disclose data on certain recipients of Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP). The SBA will disclose the business names; addresses; North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code; zip code; business type; demographic data; non-profit information; and number of jobs supported for loan recipients who received more than $150,000 (the exact loan figure will not be disclosed). Seventy-five percent of loans were over $150,000 and therefore will be disclosed. In a statement, Secretary Mnuchin said, “We are striking the appropriate balance of providing public transparency, while protecting the payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors.” Secretary Mnuchin had previously stated during a June 11 Small Business Committee hearing that such information was confidential and would therefore not be disclosed. Additional details on the announcement are available here.

The SBA also released updated data on PPP approvals through June 20, 2020. The data shows $7.6 billion of PPP loans went to the “Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting,” sectors. That is about 1.5% of the total funds that the program has released. The report also showed that there is $128 billion funding still available through PPP. You can read the full report here.

CFAP

Payments

USDA’s updated data shows that they have paid out $4 billion in CFAP payments, which is about one-quarter of the $16 billion available. Non-specialty crop producers have received over $1 billion in payments so far. You can review the updated data from USDA here.

Criticism

The EU joined China and five other WTO members in criticizing CFAP, expressing concern over the size of the program and that the aid could be market-distorting. At last Friday’s meeting of the WTO’s committee on Agriculture, the US argued that CFAP won’t distort planting decisions because payments are only based on past production or supplies. “The new U.S. farm subsidy package will throw a dark shadow over efforts to negotiate fairer WTO rules,” Jonathan Hepburn, a Geneva-based independent policy analyst said in an interview last week. China took it a step further and alleged that the U.S. program would exceed America’s WTO limits for trade-distorting subsidies if current prices and volumes remain stable. You can read more here.

Funding for Fresh Vegetables and Produce

Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Crawford (R-AR) sent a letter last week to House leadership requesting additional emergency funding in the next COVID relief package for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, which helps support fruit and vegetables incentive programs through non-profits. In addition to Kildee and Crawford, the bipartisan letter was signed by 72 other Members of Congress. You can read the letter here.   Georgia U.S House Representatives Austin Scott and David Scott are signees.

American Farm Bureau Federation Market Intel

The latest from the AFBF Market Intel report which analyzes the food, hospitality and travel sectors, outlines how these industries are recovers from the effects of COVID. The analysis shares data that shows the retail sector is coming slowly out of the lockdown, but that the food, hospitality and travel sectors have a long way to go. You can review the full report here.

Farmdoc Article

The University of Illinois Farmdoc team recently published an article reviewing ARC/PLC program performance over the course of the 2014 Farm Bill. The article raises some key points about the way the programs are designed, as well as potential changes that could improve the programs for the future. These thoughts and suggestions are an important baseline for considering how to best shape the farm safety net to create a stable future for corn farmers. The article can be found here.

Congress

The House and Senate will both begin debate on police reform legislation this week and work by lawmakers to oversee the federal response to COVID-19 continues. Congressional Democrats are ramping up their coronavirus oversight of the Trump administration with a hearing in House Energy and Commerce Committee today to review  President Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir make up the witness panel.

Additionally, Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar yesterday questioning why HHS has not spent nor detailed how it plans to spend $8 billion out of $25 billion appropriated for stemming the spread of coronavirus through testing and contact tracing. The letter also questioned why the CDC hasn’t awarded nearly $4 billion for contact tracing at the state and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has joined the push to pressure Congress to provide even more relief to states and cities strained by the coronavirus. The Chamber, and the businesses it represents, worry that if Congress does not provide additional funding soon, cities and states will be forced to lay off more workers, cut services and raise taxes. Senate Republicans, however, maintain that additional assessment of the money which has already been spent or still needs to be spent is necessary before moving too quickly on another package.

 

 

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