Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 6.1

Monday, June 1st, 2020


June 1, 2020

  • COVID-19 Updates
  • Big Picture Outlook
  • The Week Ahead
  • A Quick Look Back
  • Contact the Team

COVID-19 Updates

Legislative Update– The House of Representatives reconvened last week to vote on a number of bills, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act. The bill extends the loan coverage period from eight to twenty-four weeks, lowers the percentage minimum that must be spent on payroll from 75% to 60%, and extends the required loan payback requirement from two to five years if the amount provided doesn’t convert to a grant. The bill passed the House 417-1, with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) being the only member to vote against it. The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration this week. The senate returns to session today and is expected to consider the House’s proposed changes. One issue may be the extension of the loan amount to twenty-four weeks. Members of the Senate have discussed only extending it to a shorter sixteen-week period, per the efforts of Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL).

On Thursday, Senate Democrats, led by Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and endorsed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), unveiled a proposal that adds an additional $8 billion to bolster the food supply chain and redistribute surplus commodities. This provides:

  • Funds to upgrade machinery, cold storage, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, and testing kits to protect workers on farms and processing plants. Additionally, this would provide loans of up to $50,000 to food processors to make these upgrades.
  • Grants to industries that buy and donate surplus food. This is in an effort to increase partnership donations to food banks and other human service organizations. This also allows partnerships among food service industries and farmers with nonprofits for food donations and other food related costs.
  • Loans of up to $25 million for large scale projects to minimize food supply chain bottlenecking. This would also cap interest rates, waive fees, and expand the percentage of the guaranteed amount of the loan.
  • Grants of up to $1 million that can be used to repay loans or cover the costs of eligible expenses. Farmers and processing plants can use this money for technical assistance to update their business models and COVID-19 risk response.

Federal Update- The USDA has started taking applications for the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program (CFAP), which utilizes money appropriated in the CARES Act as well as Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds to pay producers for losses due to COVID-19. Applications are now being accepted until August 28th, 2020. The program provides assistance to a number of row crops, specialty crops and livestock and poultry sectors. Eighty percent of CFAP benefits will be paid to farmers upon completion of applications, and the remaining benefits will be paid at a later date when it is clear that funds for the program are still available. Appointments to apply can be scheduled through local FSA offices. Watch this short video to learn more about the application process.

Industry Update– The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance sent a letter to Congressional leadership, supporting temporary increases in SNAP benefits as a part of the next coronavirus relief bill. The letter, signed by representatives from Danone, Mars, Nestle, and Unilever, suggests a temporary 15% increase in SNAP benefits to increase food access for Americans and reduce demand on food banks and other nonprofits. The Alliance also suggested increasing the minimum monthly SNAP benefit, extending the Pandemic-EBT program, and expanding components of the WIC program.

Big Picture Outlook

Tensions Rise Despite Agricultural Success of US-China Trade Agreement– Over the last ten weeks, US officials have reported a significant increase in agricultural purchases from China. This was a hopeful sign that the country would make good on its “phase one” trade agreement commitments. Agricultural commodities that had been the largest Chinese purchases were pork, soybeans, corn, wheat, and cotton. However, Chinese state-run agricultural companies have been told to halt some purchases of United States farm goods, which include pork and soybeans, as uncertainty on the trade deal continues to circulate. These announcements from Beijing come as the Trump administration took action against China’s new national security legislation on Hong Kong. Following Secretary of State Mike Pomeo’s statement last week on Hong Kong’s autonomy from China, President Trump announced policy change that reforms special US treatment previously given to Hong Kong. Despite the initial trade deal progress, tensions continue to mount between the two countries.

Positioning for Climate Change Legislative Action– The Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis sent a letter to rural and agricultural stakeholders. The letter led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asks a series of questions regarding the impact of climate change on agriculture and rural communities. Committee members asked what resources rural communities need to be more prepared for severe storms, droughts, wildfires and flooding, and if tools from USDA’s FSA and NRCS could be expanded or changed to help producers facing extreme weather.

Diet Guidelines Recommendations Delayed– For a second time, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has delayed the release of its draft report. The meeting has been moved from June 8th to June 17th and will take place via webcast. The DGAC will require a final discussion on the report before sending it to the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Pending their review, a final draft will be posted online in mid-July for the public to give feedback. A revised edition based on the review of the USDA and HHS, as well as public comments, will be released by the end of the year. The Dietary Guidelines are used to provide food-based recommendations to promote health, help prevent diet-related disease, and meet nutrient needs. The government uses these recommendations to then structure sponsored food and nutrition programs and initiatives. The recommendations are also used in the private sector. The USDA and HHS jointly publish these guidelines every five years.

The Week Ahead

Thursday, June 4
  • 10:00am EST: Senate Committee on Environment and Public works will hold a hearing to “Examine Infrastructure, Focusing on the Road to Recovery.”

*The House of Representatives released their updated legislative calendar for the remainder of 2020. The next series of votes will be held the week of June 30 through July 2. Click here to see the revised 2020 House vote schedule.

A Quick Look Back