What's in the virus relief bill for farmers?- USA

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The $2 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed last week produced good news amid the storm of dismal reports about the impact COVID-19 has had on people and the economy.

The 880-page bill was called the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act,” or the CARES Act. News of its passage sent the stock market spiraling out of bear territory. Whether it will help farmers and the many Americans facing joblessness and other hardships will depend on how fast the Trump administration can deploy the many tools included in the package.

Of primary concern to us, though, is how it will help farmers and ranchers and those businesses that provide equipment and services to them. We took a look at the sections of the new law that apply to agriculture and here’s what we found:

• Checks amounting to $1,200 per adult and $500 for every child under 16 will be headed to farmers and ranchers and every other household nationwide to help stanch the flow of red ink caused by the spread of the virus. The total cost: $301 billion.

• The Commodity Credit Corporation will receive $14 billion in addition to the $30 billion that was already budgeted. At the discretion of the USDA secretary, that money goes to domestic farm income, price support and conservation programs; foreign market development; and the U.S. Agency for International Development programs within the USDA, according to the bill.

• $9.5 billion is set aside for direct aid to livestock and specialty crop producers. It is to support farmers and ranchers impacted by coronavirus, including “producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems including farmers’ markets, restaurants and schools and livestock producers, including dairy producers.”

• Small businesses will be eligible to receive loans from the Small Business Administration to help with payroll, rent, health insurance costs and other costs. No collateral or guarantee is required.

• An additional $15.8 billion will go to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. That’s on top of about $58 billion already budgeted for the program.

• $3 million for restarting experiments in forest and range research that fail because of the employee restrictions caused by the virus outbreak.

• $450 million through the Commodity Assistance Program to distribute commodities to food banks and others in need.

• $34 million for cleaning and disinfecting U.S. Forest Service public recreation facilities and for virus testing of first responders such as wildland firefighters.

• $55 million for the Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection Program.

• $45 million for commodity grading and inspections through the Agricultural Marketing Service.

• $33 million for temporary workers in the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

• $3 million for temporary staff and overtime for Farm Service Agency employees.

• $20.5 million for loans to business development programs through USDA Rural Development.

• $25 million for telemedicine and distance learning through the USDA Rural Utilities Service.

• $8.8 billion for child nutrition through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

• $4 million to move Foreign Agricultural Service employees to the U.S. from overseas.

• $100 million for broadband internet in rural areas through the Rural Utilities Service.

Our reaction: Wow. And that’s just the USDA’s slice of the pie.

Of course, the devil is in the details. If the help reaches those who most need it, then Congress will have done its job — and funded a whole litany of other items to boot.