The American Farm Bureau Federation is calling on lawmakers to provide critical resources to farmers impacted by the COVID-19 shockwave to the food system and to rural communities grappling with the pandemic’s impacts. Many struggling farmers were left out of initial federal aid, and some who received assistance are still being hurt with COVID-19 losses. As additional coronavirus relief is considered, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall sent a letter to congressional leaders outlining the need.
The USDA’s most recent World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates suggest the decline in commodity value for 2019, 2020 and 2021 production adds up to almost $60 billion. This does not include all of agriculture’s losses, which would be billions more.
“The economic losses across the U.S. agriculture sector are broad-based, directly impacting farmers and ranchers and their supply chain partners – from input providers to end users,” Duvall wrote. “Producers have witnessed their markets shrink overnight or even disappear, while supply chains have been stretched to the limit in response to the pandemic. The widespread closures at the retail level are impacting consumer demand and purchasing patterns in ways that the industry has never experienced.”
The list of priorities for additional COVID-19 relief legislation include:
Relief Funding for Agricultural Producers
- Extend relief funding for losses incurred after April 15, 2020.
- Replenish Commodity Credit Corporation funding to $68 billion.
- Include the Farming Support to States Act, which provides resources to state and local Departments of Agriculture.
- Support biofuel production facilities.
Support for Livestock Producers
- Provide aid to independent and contract poultry producers.
- Open Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency haying and grazing to feed livestock being kept longer than expected due to processing capacity issues.
- Waive overtime fees for FSIS meat inspectors in small and medium-sized packing plants.
Rural Health Care
- Increase funding for community health care centers.
- Expand eligibility and increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Cover H-2A workers in PPP.
- Qualify rental payments for business-related items.
- Allow Farm Credit institutions to access the set-aside for small financial lenders.
- Fund expedited implementation of the Broadband DATA Act.
- Allow distressed communities access to the Economic Development Administration grants for broadband deployment.
Agriculture Labor and Worker Safety
- Provide housing funding to accommodate social distancing guidelines for H-2A workers.
- Provide funding to offset the cost of PPE and sanitizing supplies.
Read President Duvall’s letter to Congress here.