The stimulus package is the latest in a long line of recent ad hoc relief efforts for the agricultural economy. Trump did everything he could to bail out farmers and ranchers stung by his own trade war and biofuel policies, in addition to long-term economic winds.
“The program will include direct payments to farmers as well as massive purchases of dairy, meat and agricultural products to get this food to the needy,” Trump said at a White House media briefing. .
Perdue said at the briefing that direct aid to farmers would total $ 16 billion, while the ministry would buy $ 3 billion in excess food to donate to food banks and other organizations.
Senator John Hoeven (RN.D.), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees the spending of the USDA, has released details on how direct aid would be distributed among the commodity sectors, the majority shares going to producers of cattle, pigs and dairy products.
In a conference call with reporters, Perdue said he hoped to receive checks by mail for the farmers by the end of May.
The USDA finances the payments through a combination of the new congressional spending power included in the stimulus package and existing funds. Trump has said additional $ 14 billion in aid will be available in July.
Commodity groups have felt burned in the past by the ministry’s aid efforts. For example, corn producers complained in 2018 that Trump’s bailout paid them only a penny per bushel, while other sectors of the agricultural economy were completely excluded from the program.
The National Pork Producers Council said on Friday that the share of pork producers in the aid package “will not meet what is really needed.”
“Although the direct payments to pork farmers compensate for certain losses for some farmers, they are not sufficient to support the various market players, including those who own pigs as well as the thousands of contract producers who take care of hogs, “said NPPC chairman Howard AV Roth said in a statement.
The Renewable Fuels Association said the USDA “had missed a crucial opportunity” to help biofuel producers in crisis as drivers avoided the roads and gas consumption plummeted. The group said it was “regrettable and disappointing that the 350,000 workers supported by the US ethanol industry have been left behind.”
Perdue said the USDA has not received enough money from Congress to fully respond to all farmers in need.
“Frankly, at this point, there just isn’t enough money to go around,” he said. “The demand from all sectors was even more than we could meet today.”
The secretary also said that hemp growers may be eligible for aid “if they demonstrate a loss. “
Regarding purchases of basic products, the ministry said it would start by buying about $ 100 million a month each in meat, dairy and fresh produce. Participating distributors and wholesalers will then send boxes of pre-approved products to food banks, faith-based organizations, community groups and other non-profit organizations, the report said.
Last month, Congress authorized the Department of Agriculture to spend more than $ 23 billion to stimulate hard-hit sectors, including livestock and dairy producers, specialty crop producers and producers who sell to local food systems like farmers’ markets. Some of these sectors have suffered for years from headwinds in trade, labor shortages, low commodity prices and the rapid consolidation of agriculture.
Farmers also struggled to access separate elements of the $ 2 trillion stimulus package, including repayable small business loans to help employers keep employees on the payroll.