Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 5.11

Monday, May 11th, 2020


May 11, 2020

A quick look at what’s happening in Washington, D.C. that’s impacting food and agriculture. If you would like to subscribe to the receive the updates right to your inbox, please contact Marissa Dake

COVID-19 Updates

Legislative Update– The Senate resumed session on Capitol Hill last week, and Congressional leaders continue to roll out legislative proposals for coronavirus relief. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA-12) discussed some of the key components of a coronavirus package that is currently being drafted, aiming for a vote as early as Friday. However, House Republicans disagree with how quickly the Democrats want to move the new legislation, and Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA-23) called for analysis on the effectiveness of prior legislative efforts first.

Senate Democrats hope to pass a coronavirus aid oversight bill, which would require public reporting on the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and other debt relief programs.

Reps. Scott (R-GA-8) and Bishop (D-GA-2) introduced a bill on Tuesday, which would lift the Commodity Credit Corporation’s (CCC) annual borrowing limit from $30 billion to $68 billion. This legislation would allow USDA to allocate a much larger amount of funds to agricultural producers that are affected by the coronavirus pandemic or future events.

Meanwhile, the Senate will resume hearings this week, including one with NIH Director Fauci and CDC Director Redfield on “Safely Getting back to Work and Back to School.” In committee news, newly appointed Senator Loeffler (R-GA) will step down from the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade after ongoing scrutiny over her stock trades in light of the coronavirus crisis. She will continue to serve on the full committee.

Federal Update– Last week, USDA sent the proposed rule for implementing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Secretary Perdue previously said that he wanted signup for CFAP to be open in early May and payments to be made at the end of the month or early in June.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) also announced additional food purchase plans, which will enable USDA to purchase surplus food for farmers. The specific commodity purchases will be determined by food bank needs and market analysis. AMS also approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program on Friday. Furthermore, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) continues to expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online purchasing and Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to additional states, to expand food access options during the pandemic.

Industry Update– The Rebuild Rural Coalition sent a letter Wednesday to congressional leadership, asking them to consider infrastructure needs of rural communities in future stimulus packages. The letter mentions specific needs, such as broadband, reliable transportation infrastructure, clean and safe drinking water and wastewater facilities, reliable power, among others. More than 250 local, state, and national coalition partners signed onto the letter, including American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, National Corn Growers Association, North American Millers’ Association, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

Big Picture Outlook

US, UK Begin Trade Negotiations– The US and UK trade negotiators met on Tuesday via videoconference to begin discussions on a free trade agreement. USTR Ambassador Lighthizer has made clear that one of his priorities for the pact is access for US agricultural commodities. However, the UK is also negotiating with the European Union, which could complicate matters with the US due to the EU’s strict restrictions on biotechnology and growth hormones, among others. Over 300 officials will be involved throughout the two-week round of negotiations. The British embassy said that further rounds will take place approximately every six weeks following this initial round of negotiations, and there is no specific completion deadline in mind.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, May 12

  • 10:00am EST: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee will reconvene to discuss, “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” Witnesses include NIH Director Fauci, CDC Director Redfield, FDA Administrator Hahn, and HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. ADM Brett Giroir.
  • 2:30pm EST: The Senate Judiciary Committee will host a hearing on “Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Wednesday, May 13

  • 10:00am EST: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will meet to discuss “The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

A Quick Look Back