Newest round of US COVID-19 relief earmarks additional cash for agriculture

The Health Economic Assistance Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, introduced earlier this week in the US Senate, would provide an additional $20 billion to the USDA to aid farmers and ranchers.
calendar icon 30 July 2020
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According to reporting in Ag Daily, $20 billion allocated to the agriculture sector in the HEALS Act has few restrictions and can be used to, “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by coronavirus, including producers, growers, and processors of specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry, including livestock and poultry depopulated due to insufficient processing access and growers who produce livestock or poultry under a contract for another entity.”

The bill also earmarks an additional $457 million to the Department of Agriculture to address other concerns, including $245 million to make up for lost user fees due to the decline in agriculture inspections and $113 million in rental assistance to rural and low-wage residents.

The HEALS Act also includes the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act. The proposed law changes some portions of the Paycheck Protection Program, a move welcomed by many farm groups.

Ag Daily reports that farm groups are happy to see the sector included in the proposed legislation. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said, “The additional $20 billion for agriculture in the HEALS Act would come at a critical time as the impact of this pandemic continues to hit our farms and rural communities.

“America’s farmers and ranchers and the men and women who work alongside us have answered the call as an essential industry in keeping our nation’s food supply secure. Farmers and ranchers have faced difficult decisions and shown great ingenuity and perseverance to keep their farms running, all while being met with steep challenges as markets and supply chains rapidly react to unprecedented changes. We all depend on our nation’s farms and ranches hanging on through this crisis.”

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