Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 9.28

Monday, September 28th, 2020


September 28, 2020

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

COVID-19 Updates

Legislative Update– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has signaled her committee chairs to assemble a scaled back coronavirus relief package. According to House leadership, the new price tag will cost around $2.4 trillion, down from the $3.4 trillion price tag of the HEROES Act that was passed in the House in May. Speaker Pelosi has not specifically outlined her plans, although she said it contains funding for airlines, restaurants, and other needs that have arisen since May. The Speaker said she hopes a vote will take place late this week or early next in the hopes relief is passed before the House recess.

Federal Update- USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a third round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program after having $1 billion added to the program from the President in an effort to feed those in need and assist the agriculture industry. Secretary Perdue said the goal of this round is to ensure food combinations of fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, and meat products are delivered to every county in America. He also said this third round will continue to “support our great American farmers and food distributors to feed those most vulnerable.” Though this is another round of assistance for farmers, in an interview with United Fresh Secretary Perdue stated his intention to end the Food Box Program, saying doing so will allow “the market to get back to work.” The USDA reported that since the start of the program, over ninety million food boxes have been delivered.

The USDA released the latest statistics on the original CFAP. As of August 3, the Department has paid out $10.1 billion in payments and approved 638,476 applications. Iowa continues to be the top recipient of funding with Nebraska, California, and Texas following thereafter. The livestock sector has been the top funded commodity followed by row crops and the dairy industry. This information is exclusive to the original CFAP as statistics and information regarding CFAP 2 will be available in the coming weeks.

Industry Update– World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley warned the U.N. Security Council that millions of people worldwide are approaching starvation. In testimony to the council, he said that his program needs approximately $4.9 billion to feed thirty million people who may die without assistance. Chief Beasley called upon the over 2,000 billionaires around the world to assist in the effort, saying those who have the most should “step up” in these times of conflict, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases grew thirty percent last week in the rural U.S. Of the 1,976 ‘rural’ American counties, 53,852 new cases were reported. Total deaths increased twenty percent to a total of 18,128 in these same counties. The White House Coronavirus Task Force uses the term “red-zone” to designate areas where the spread is out of control. Of those 1,976 rural counties in America, 909 of them are in the red-zone. So far, the Northern Great Plains and Midwest are becoming the central locations for rural county coronavirus cases.

Big Picture Outlook

Continuing Resolution Passes House– The House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) on Tuesday night to fund the government through December 11. Both Republicans and Democrats stressed the importance of the CR as it includes funding that will allow farmers to receive their regular domestic support and the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2). Funding for the CCC was not originally included, but was eventually added after a major push from Republicans and agriculture-state Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said of the original proposal, “This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America.” The revised resolution gives $30 billion as a line of credit to the CCC. Among the broad scopes of the funding, the resolution provides:

  • $8 billion in nutrition assistance,
  • Funding for community health centers and the National Health Services Corps,
  • Additional accountability of CCC, with assurance the money will go to farmers and ranchers and not oil companies.

Additionally, the resolution allows states to lower administrative requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and extends the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program. Leaders such as the School Nutrition Association and the National WIC Association praised the extension of these food programs. Other industry leaders praised the passage of the resolution, including President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall and President Rob Larew of the National Farmer’s Union. The Senate plans to take a procedural vote on Tuesday night, with the final passage expected by Wednesday.

WTO Concerned Over U.S. Farm Subsidies– On Wednesday, several foreign countries expressed concern regarding market distortion in United States agriculture because of government assistance for producers during the Trump administration. During a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), India, Australia, Brazil, the E.U. and others raised concerns about the $34 billion in payments to agriculture in what they say is an effort to manipulate trade. As a member of the WTO, the U.S. has committed to limit its trade distorting domestic supports in the Amber Box category to $19.1 billion. These concerns were raised shortly after the USDA announced another $14 billion for CFAP 2. President Trump has suggested on multiple occasions that he would like to withdraw the U.S. from the WTO, however the food and agriculture industry have urged the White House to stay in the WTO, stating doing so is fundamental to agricultural trade.

Fischer Introduces Cattle Legislation– Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced a bill that would establish minimum cash trades in regional markets for fed cattle in an effort to enhance accountability in the cattle market. This is the second attempt at a bill that would set a minimum cash trade in the cattle market, the first was a bipartisan measure introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Senator Fischer said her legislation will help “facilitate price discovery and equip producers with more price information to assist them with their marketing decisions.” Currently, neither the Senate or House Agriculture Committees have hearings scheduled on this issue, so this piece of legislation will likely not be discussed in the near future.

Wildfires Affecting Farmworkers- Due to the recent spread of wildfires on the West Coast, nearly fifty million people in California, Oregon, and Washington have breathed unhealthy air. That equates to be about one in seven Americans. Smoke has traveled over 4,000 miles, being found in Hawaii and Ohio. Additionally, grape vineyards in the worst smoke-filled areas are anticipating losses of $3,500 per ton of fruit. Many farm workers, especially undocumented workers who found labor in the harvests, say they have no choice but to work in the suffocating air of the coastal states. To combat the smoke for farm workers in Washington and Oregon, the United Farm Workers Foundation is giving out N95 masks to those working harvest. Since the beginning of the year, 3.6 million acres have burned in California, over 1 million acres in Oregon, and over 500,000 acres in Washington.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, September 30
  • 10:00 a.m. (EST) The House Small Business Committee will be holding a hearing to discuss “How COVID-19 is Impacting Small Businesses Across the Food System.”
  • 11:30 a.m. (EST) The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will be holding a hearing to discuss “Coping with compound Crises: Extreme Weather, Social Injustice, and a Global Pandemic.”
Thursday, September 24
  • 10:00 a.m. (EST) The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing to discuss “Preventing Fraud and Abuse of PPP and EIDL: An Update with the SBA Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office”
  • 10:00 a.m. (EST) The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on “Challenges and Successes of Conservation Programs in 2020.”
To see a full list of House and Senate Committee business, visit here.

A Quick Look Back

Contact the Team 

Feel free to contact Michael TorreyTara SmithCassandra KuballJessica KuneyBarbara PattersonPerry Harlow, or Brandon Barnett with any questions or comments.