Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 6.22

Monday, June 22nd, 2020


June 22, 2020

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

COVID-19 Updates

Legislative Update– Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he expects for the next coronavirus aid bill to pass the Senate in early August, right before the chamber is dismissed for the August recess. The chairman said the Senate has delayed discussion to see how the economy turns around, how much money each state has spent, and how much of the Paycheck Protection Program has gone unused. Additionally, Senator Grassley said he would like to see more relief provided to agriculture, particularly hog producers who were forced to depopulate their herds. Negotiations on the bill are expected to begin after the July 4th Senate recess.

Federal Update- The USDA reported that producers have received approximately $2.9 billion of the $16 billion the department anticipates delivering as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Of the total amount, Iowa has received the most funding from the program, totaling $314 million. Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, and Minnesota follow suit. Livestock producers have received the most funding overall as they have been one of the hardest sectors hit, with $1.4 billion going primarily to beef cattle and hog producers. Additionally, the USDA clarified the final rule on CFAP including the definitions of slaughter cattle-fed cattle, eligibility of specialty crops and dairies, and payment calculations for livestock. Members of the World Trade Organization questioned the program, saying it would set a new precedent for future relief programs. The US clarified that the funding is based on past production, but it is unclear whether this will assuage concerns with more funding expected in future packages.

The Small Business Administration opened the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to a broader array of qualified small businesses and nonprofits affected by the pandemic. The SBA opened the EIDL to more small businesses and agricultural entities as part of funding appropriated by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The loan amounts are capped at $150,000 and the emergency grant fund at $1,000 per employee, per business. Loans are available through the EIDL program until the end of the year.

The USDA announced schools that have been serving meals to children during the pandemic can continue to do so free of charge for the duration of the summer. The announcement comes shortly after the School Nutrition Association sent a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking for the extension. In the letter, the association said the summer program would “ensure children are fueled for learning, minimize regulatory and paperwork burdens on schools and families, and support efforts to maintain social distancing.” Secretary Perdue said the change will ensure the nation’s children will be fed healthy and nutritious food during the summer.

Industry Update– A bipartisan letter sent to Secretary Perdue calls on the USDA to allow grazing or harvesting of cover crops on prevented plant acres. Lawmakers stated that doing so will provide assistance to producers who have a backlog of animals due to closures of meat packing facilities because of COVID-19. The letter also requested the date of grazing, haying, or chopping cover crops on protected acres be moved up from November 1st to September 1st. This same date change occurred in 2019 when agricultural areas of the country saw excessive rainfall and flooding. The lawmakers asked that the same date change apply as a minimal effort to mitigate animal production issues nationwide.

Big Picture Outlook

Great American Outdoors Act Passes– The Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act last Wednesday. The bill provides $1.9 billion over the next five years for maintenance backlog of national parks and $900 million in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Many individuals and groups supported the legislation, including President Trump when he initially called for permanent funding of the LWCF, saying it will be ‘historic’ for the nation’s public lands. However, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council have both come out against the bill. Kaitlynn Glover of NCBA said the bill is a “bailout for lands the federal government already doesn’t manage…and they are going to end up with billions of dollars in deferred maintenances.” The Senate passed the legislation seventy-three to twenty-five and now goes to the House for a vote.

Farm Groups Urge Trade Deal– One hundred ninety farm groups sent a letter to President Trump urging him to not condemn the Phase One trade agreement with China or he risks damaging the already ailing farm sector. The group requested the Administration give time for China to fulfill their promise to increase purchases of US agriculture commodities as part of the deal. Though President Trump regularly expresses contempt with China and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter cited increased soybean purchases as a sign China is following through on the deal. During testimony with the House and Senate last week, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stressed China is coming through with purchases and several major reforms that allow US beef, barley, blueberries, and additional dairy products be exported to the country. The letter concluded by stating the trade deal “is vital to economic stability and growth for America’s farmers, food manufacturers, food industry workers, [and] agribusinesses.”

China Purchases More Soybeans– Last Monday, the USDA reported China is contracted to purchase an additional 390,000 metric tons of US soybeans for the 2020-2021 marketing year, a sign the country is following through on the Phase One trade deal. This is in addition to the 720,000 tons of soybeans China contracted to buy the previous week. Despite a wet spring, American soybean growers are confident they can meet the demand. Scott Sigman of the Illinois Soybean Association said, “getting twice the crop in at this point is certainly a bellwether and a sign we’re more confident in the crop this year than we were last year.” Along with soybeans, China has purchased over 60,000 tons of both wheat and sorghum from the United States.

The Week Ahead

Monday June 22, 2020
  • 12:00 pm EST: The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on “Inequalities Exposed: How COVID-19 Widened Racial Inequities in Education, Health, and the Workforce.”
Tuesday June 23, 2020
  • 10:00 am EST: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine COVID-19, Focusing on Lessons Learned to Prepare for the Next Pandemic.”
  • 11:00 am EST: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a “Member Day Testimony for FY21 Appropriations.”
Wednesday June 24, 2020
  • 10:00 am EST: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will a hold a hearing on “The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020”.
To see a full list of House and Senate Committee meetings, visit here.

A Quick Look Back