To alleviate the current and potential economic fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. lawmakers are poised to pass a response, relief, and stimulus aid package with a nearly $2 trillion price tag.
The bill, which is the most expensive in the country’s history, provides $130 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for local and state governments, direct payments to individuals, and $300 billion in financial aid for small businesses. Several provisions are of particular interest to National Farmers Union and the agriculture industry:
- $185 million to support rural critical access hospitals, rural tribal health and telehealth programs, and poison control centers.
- $25 million to improve access to distance learning and telemedicine through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.
- $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, which is used to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices through initiatives like the Market Facilitation Program.
- $9.5 billion to help specialty crop growers, farmers who support local food systems, dairy farmers, and livestock producers.
- A temporary three-month extension on repayment of commodity marketing assistance loans, from nine months to a year.
Rural Businesses and Communities
- The availability of Economic Injury Disaster Loans to cooperatives with fewer than 500 employees.
- $100 million to improve access to rural broadband through the ReConnect program.
- $20.5 million to support an additional $1 billion of lending through USDA’s Rural Development Business and Industry Loan Guarantee program.
- $15.5 billion in additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to assist more participants. This will not increase benefit levels for individuals.
- $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs.
- $450 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
NFU President Rob Larew said, “By providing much-needed support for rural health care and family farm agriculture, the stimulus bill would address many of our most urgent concerns. In the coming weeks, we will learn more about the additional needs of our rural health care system, farmers, and rural communities, and we urge Congress to be ready to address them.”
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said, “We urge swift passage and will continue working with Congress and the Administration to ensure there are sufficient resources to assist farmers, ranchers, rural communities and those in need in these very trying times.”