Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 7.13

Monday, July 13th, 2020


July 13, 2020

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

COVID-19 Updates

Legislative Update– Democratic Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth introduced a bill that would expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online purchasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The main provision in the bill provides funding for the development of a universal online and app-based method for retailers to participate in SNAP. The bill would also create a technical center to facilitate online purchasing, provide public information on what local vendors participate in SNAP online purchasing, and require implementation of online SNAP purchasing in all fifty states. Currently, online purchasing is available in forty-three states and the District of Columbia and requires approval from USDA.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a bipartisan group of members from the House of Representatives introduced the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act. The bill is intended to create a program to help existing small meat and poultry processors upgrade for federal inspection and allow them to sell products state to state. The bill was proposed to alleviate the toll the pandemic has had on processors as well as to limit further interruptions in the supply chain. The bill has been endorsed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Federal Update- Farmers continue to receive funding through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The USDA reported producers have received approximately $5.4 billion of the $16 billion that the department anticipates delivering. Of that amount, $2.4 billion has gone to livestock producers, primarily beef cattle and hogs. The rest has gone to row crops, dairy, fruit and vegetables, and specialty crops. The Secretary has announced that USDA expects to make the remaining twenty percent a producers’ CFAP payment by the time program sign-ups ends on August 28.

The Farmers to Families Food Box Program fell short of the goal proposed by USDA Administrators. The program was initiated to aid farmers and struggling Americans by purchasing food from farmers and delivering the boxes to nationwide food banks and food assistance services. The original goal was to have $1.2 billion worth of food delivered, or about 40 million boxes. However, as of July 1, the agency reported they delivered $755.5 million worth of food, or 27.5 million boxes. That is equivalent to sixty-three percent of the total amount pledged to the program. While invoices are still being submitted to the USDA, the Department is looking into unsuccessful contracts and areas missed in food box delivery in preparation for the next two months. The program is set to expire around September 1.

Industry Update– A letter sent by more than 150 agriculture, trade, and other groups to Congressional appropriators warned that user fees for agricultural inspections are low. The letter stated that Agriculture Quarantine Inspections (AQI) ensure agriculture “remains safe from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases.” The letter urged lawmakers to allocate funding for what could be a $630 million shortfall because of the pandemic. The letter concludes by stating it would be ‘inconceivable’ for Congress to risk the damage to United States agriculture and the economy by not financing inspections.

Big Picture Outlook

USMCA Goes Into Effect– The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement went into effect on July 1, after being approved by Congress in December, signed by President Trump, and ratified by Canada and Mexico. To celebrate the new deal, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came to the United States, the first time since he took office late last year. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not attend due to cabinet meetings. In an interview, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said the USMCA ‘levels the playing field’ by bringing more jobs and revenue to the U.S. automobile and agriculture industries.

Agriculture Appropriations Approved– The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2021 agriculture appropriations bill with limited debate and amendments. The total 2021 fiscal allocation is $23.98 billion, two percent more than 2020 appropriations. The bill includes language that would block two SNAP rules: the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) final rule and the Standard Utility Allowance rule. The bill would also block USDA from granting line-speed waivers at meat processing facilities during the pandemic. During discussion, both parties praised one another for the bipartisan work on the bill.

Groups Send Letters Urging Phase One Implementation– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with over 40 trade associations sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He urging to redouble efforts for Phase One trade agreement implementation. The groups stated they were happy with purchases so far, however they urged for an increase in Chinese purchases of U.S. commodities and services. The letter stated that accelerated implementation of the deal would help both countries in preparing talks for Phase Two conversations, as well as improve economies and foreign relations. While China has been following through on purchases from the United States, those purchases have been slow and inconsistent which questions China’s long-term commitment to the deal. Additionally, China recently banned imports from two more Brazilian meat plants amid concerns over the coronavirus, sparking concern that the country will impose similar restrictions on food products from the United States.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, July 14
  • 12:00 pm (EST) the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Promoting Economic Recovery: Examining Capital Markets and Worker Protections in the COVID-19 Era.”
Wednesday, July 15
  • 1:00 pm (EST) The House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing to discuss “Long-Lasting Solutions for a Small Business Recovery.”
Thursday, July 16
  • 1:00 pm (EST) The House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing on “Putting American Back to Work: The Role of Workforce Development and Small Business Rehiring.”
To see a full list of House and Senate Committee business, visit here.

A Quick Look Back

Contact the Team 

Feel free to contact Mike Torrey, Tara Smith, Cassandra Kuball, Jessica Kuney , Barbara Patterson, or Perry Harlow with any questions or comments.