Lawmakers anxious for USDA guidance on COVID ag relief


Lawmakers anxious for USDA guidance on COVID ag relief

A U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Ag Committee says lawmakers are waiting with bated breath for guidance from USDA on COVID-19 relief for agriculture.

Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith tells Brownfield she’s been in close contact with Ag Secretary Perdue about the hardships facing cattle producers.

“After prices being so good at the end of 2019, to see this precipitous drop has just been really challenging. And that was a lot of what we were thinking about as we set aside this $9.5 billion to help farmers with big financial issues.”

On a call with reporters Wednesday, Perdue said he wants to get the $9.5 billion earmarked under the CARES Act for livestock producers, specialty crops, and local ag systems distributed “sooner rather than later.”  But he indicated an additional $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation cannot be spent before July.

Smith says farmers are eligible for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans through the Small Business Administration, and she’s pushing to make sure they also qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

“That is kind of an immediate $10,000 cash grant assistance to help people weather this massive storm. And a lot of us are concerned about how EIDL is being implemented and the slowness of that process, given the urgency of the need.”

Smith is also concerned about the biofuels industry.  She says the CARES Act provides some assistance in the near-term, but Congress needs to keep ethanol plants in mind as it crafts future relief packages.

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