Perdue announces $19 billion coronavirus assistance program

Under the program, USDA will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers. The bulk of the money — $9.6 billion — is designated for livestock producers. The program also includes $3.9 billion for row crop producers, $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers and $500 million for other crops. In a call with reporters late Friday, Perdue said "other crops" could include sheep, lambs, goats, etc.

  • Price losses that occurred January 1-April 15, 2020. Producers will be compensated for 85% of price loss during that period.
  • Second part of the payment will be expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters, and will cover 30% of expected losses

The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity.

“We know the disruption to markets and demand is significant and these payments will only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers," Perdue said.

Perdue said USDA will begin a rule-making process, and farmers could receive checks by the end of May.

USDA also plans to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat by partnering with regional and local distributors. USDA will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

In addition, USDA will use other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. called the support "a good first step to help many Illinois farmers struggling to make ends meet."

“We appreciate the swift action by USDA to efficiently get assistance to producers in Illinois – most notably our dairy and livestock producers, as well as specialty growers who have been seriously impacted by the supply chain disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

What others are saying:

Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president: "This $16 billion in aid will help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather. The plan to purchase $3 billion in meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables will help to stabilize markets and keep farms afloat so they can go about the business of feeding America. Farmers and ranchers proudly accept the responsibility of feeding this nation and it’s heartbreaking to be forced to dispose of milk and plow under crops of fresh food at a time when others are going hungry. We also appreciate the additional funding from other sources to help deliver food from farms to food banks. We look forward to additional details about how the aid will be distributed.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Marty Smith: "Earlier this week, a study commissioned by NCBA, estimated that cow-calf producers stand to lose $8.1 billion as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, while the stocker/backgrounder sector losses will reach $2.5 billion and feedlot losses will total $3.0 billion as a result of the virus that is ravaging the American economy. Total industry losses are expected to reach $13.6 billion. While the relief funds that have been allocated to USDA by Congress represent a start to stabilizing the industry, there is much more work to be done to protect the cattle producers who are an essential component of the agriculture industry and the anchor for rural America.”

This story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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