COVID-19 is both a health and economic crisis for everyone in the country. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide roughly $23.5 billion in relief for farmers and ranchers.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Senate Ag Committee, says the CARES Act will help make sure farmers can survive yet another economic hurdle.
“We know our farmers have been through the wringer 1,000 different ways,” she said. “An important piece of this is a new $9.5 billion dedicated disaster fund that we specifically, for the first time, say that the USDA has to support the fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and livestock farmers, as well as local food producers.”
Stabenow said she’s making it her mission to hold USDA accountable because of an imbalance in payments of commodities from Market Facilitation Program (MFP). There will also be $14 billion to fund the Farm Bill’s safety net through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).
“It funds a number of different things, but it also funds these payments, so that’s very significant,” said Stabenow. “We’ve got to make sure that what our fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and livestock producers and local producers need is actually included in this. I’m going to watch it very closely.”
Stabenow hopes payments for farmers, small businesses and individuals will be issued as quickly as possible.
“If you have direct deposit, that’s the fastest way people will get it,” she said. “Otherwise, they will use the last known address and send it there.”
Whether it be weeks or months until the country is back up and running, Stabenow said who we admire is going to change.
“At the end of this, we are going to have a whole new definition of what an American hero looks like,” she said. “It’s going to look like a nurse, doctor, lab tech. It’s going to look like the person checking you out at the grocery store, the truck driver, or the delivery person—everyone in the food industry. It’s a group of American heroes and we need to be thanking them.”
The CARES Act provides:
Relief for Farmers and Ranchers
- $9.5 billion dedicated disaster fund to help farmers who are experiencing financial losses from the coronavirus crisis, including targeted support for fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and livestock farmers, and local food producers, who have been shorted from receiving emergency assistance in the past.
- $14 billion to fund the Farm Bill’s farm safety net through the Commodity Credit Corporation.
- Eligibility for farmers and agricultural and rural businesses to receive up to $10 million in small business interruption loans from eligible lenders, including Farm Credit institutions, through the Small Business Administration. Repayment forgiveness will be provided for funds used for payroll, rent or mortgage, and utility bills.
- $3 million to increase capacity at the USDA Farm Service Agency to meet increased demand from farmers affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Assistance for Small Towns and Rural Communities
- $1 billion available in guaranteed loans to help rural businesses weather the economic downturn.
- $100 billion to hospitals, health care providers, and facilities, including those in rural areas.
- $25 million for telemedicine tools to help rural patients access medical care no matter where they live.
- $100 million for high speed internet expansion in small towns and rural communities.
- Over $70 million to help the U.S. Forest Service serve rural communities and reduce the spread of coronavirus through personal protective equipment for first responders and cleaning of facilities.
Protections for Consumers and the Food Supply
- $55 million for inspection and quarantine at our borders to protect against invasive pests and animal disease.
- $33 million for overtime and temporary food safety inspectors to protect America’s food supply at meat processing plants.
- $45 million to ensure quality produce and meat reaches grocery stores through increased support for the Agricultural Marketing Service.
- $1.5 million to expedite EPA approvals of disinfectants needed to control the spread of coronavirus.
Food Access for Families
- $15.8 billion to fund food assistance changes made in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Republicans and the Trump Administration blocked additional funding to expand benefits for children, families, and seniors.
- $9 billion to fund child nutrition improvements made in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
- $450 million to provide food banks with additional resources for food and distribution.
- $100 million for food distribution in Tribal communities to provide facility improvements, equipment upgrades, and food purchases.