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Policy Update: Coronavirus Relief Package Contains Significant Funding for Farmers

By Ellen Stern Griswold, MFT’s Policy & Research Director

On December 21, 2020, Congress passed, and the President later signed on December 28th, the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020, a bipartisan compromise bill that combined approximately $900 billion in pandemic aid relief measures with a $1.4 trillion annual appropriations bill for FY2021. The pandemic relief section provides $13 billion in agricultural assistance, including providing the Secretary of Agriculture with a little over $11 billion to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support to agricultural producers, growers, and processors.” From this amount, the bill provides significant boosts in funding for several important programs for farmers, including:

  • Providing the majority of funding for a third version of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide direct payments to farmers who have experienced losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. This funding will cover:
    • $5 billion for row crop producers to receive a flat fee of $20 per acre.
    • $3 billion for cattle, dairy, and contract growers to receive a per head payment.
  • $1.5 billion for USDA to purchase food and agriculture products, including seafood, and to provide grants and loans to food processors and distributors (including seafood processors) to respond to COVID-19 and protect workers.
  • $100 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
  • $100 million for the Local Agriculture Market Program, with the ability to reduce the cost share requirement to 10% during the pandemic and use in-kind match.
  • $75 million for the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, with the ability to reduce the cost share requirement to 10% during the pandemic, use in-kind match, and the ability of the Secretary to waive maximum grant amounts.
  • $75 million for the GusNIP Grant Program, with the ability to reduce the cost share requirement to 10% during the pandemic, use in-kind match, provide some of the funds to currently-funded programs, and the ability of the Secretary to waive maximum grant amounts.
  • $284 billion in small business loan funding and some improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will hopefully make it easier for farmers to access.
  • $28 million to connect farmers and others in agriculture-related occupations with stress assistance programs.
  • $400 million to pay for milk to be processed into dairy products and donated to non-profit entities such as food banks and feeding programs.
  • $60 million to support facility upgrades and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to federal inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines.

Although there is still uncertainty as to how some of this new funding will be distributed, additional details can be found in this helpful blog post from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

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