Weekly Food and Agriculture Update 7.27

Monday, August 3rd, 2020


July 27, 2020

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

COVID-19 Updates

Legislative Update– Senate lawmakers are working to draft another coronavirus relief bill with a goal to have at least expiring provisions from the CARES Act on the President’s desk for signature before Congress leaves for the August recess. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven (R-ND) projected that an additional $20 billion would be allocated for food and agriculture producers. Farm groups such as the National Farmers Union and the National Pork Producers Council have urged lawmakers for more direct payments to agriculture producers. Senate leadership has said the goal is to keep their aid bill to $1 trillion compared to the House’s $3 trillion HEROES Act.

Federal Update- The USDA released the latest statistics on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) with total payments reaching over $6.2 billion for 442,639 approved applications. As has been the case since the program began, over half of the funding has gone to livestock with Iowa receiving the most of any state. Despite the assistance to producers, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said he is becoming concerned that “farmers are going to get used to” special payments like CFAP. In an interview with the National Milk Producers Federation, Chairman Peterson speculated there may be public backlash because of the large payments to agriculture producers. He also mentioned that the 2018 Farm Bill was inadequate and that assistance programs like CFAP are the best Congress can do until the next farm bill.

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations held a hearing to question officials from USDA about the Farmers Feeding Families Food Box Program after the department fell short of their goal to deliver forty million boxes across the country. Subcommittee Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) exclaimed during the meeting that the program was not the most effective way of getting food to hungry families with her and Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) stated that recipients would get a ‘better deal’ through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). USDA Undersecretary Greg Ibach noted in his testimony that despite the goal shortfall, the USDA was still able to build a new program in a short timeframe that created markets for struggling producers, helped meet food needs of unemployed Americans, and put suppliers and distributors back to work. Testimony was also offered by two food pantry CEOs who both agreed the program should continue in conjunction with an increase to SNAP.

Industry Update– The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking for wheat to be included in the next coronavirus aid package. In the letter, NAWG President David Milligan asked that “2020 crop losses begin to be covered as soon as possible.” The letter also urged for funding of U.S. commodities as part of various international food aid programs.

A letter from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee sent to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture stated they looked forward to seeing the contributions of the new guidelines. Additionally, the letter noted that “those at most risk for the serious outcomes of COVID-19…are people afflicted by diet-related chronic disease (obesity, type two diabetes, and cardiovascular disease).” The letter, which recently surfaced, also acknowledges that the pandemic has exasperated food insecurity and hunger, which furthers susceptibility to both infectious and diet-related chronic diseases.

Big Picture Outlook

House Passes Spending Bills– The House of Representatives passed a package of four spending bills, known as ‘minibus’, on Friday that includes funding for agriculture. The bill passed 224-189 with several Democrats, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), voting against it. The White House has also expressed opposition to the minibus, which includes “stopping historic welfare reforms at the Department of Agriculture,” referring to rule changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senate has not acted on appropriations, so it is likely a continuing resolution will have to be passed to fund the government after September 30.

USDA Addresses Cattle Price Volatility– The USDA released recommendations addressing price volatility in cattle markets, including strengthening USDA’s enforcement tools in the Packers and Stockyards Act as well as changes to reporting for prices and cattle delivery. The department also is considering expanding lending to small and medium-sized meat processors. The investigation started as a result of a fire at a Kansas beef packing plant that raised questions of meat packing price manipulation. While the report stated there was no violation in that particular instance, the investigation is still ongoing regarding speculated price manipulation by packers because of COVID-19.

USTR Nominee Offers Testimony– During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Deputy United States Trade Representative (USTR) nominee Michael Nemelka said the U.S. should see an uptick in exports of farm products by the end of the year. Nelmelka said “seasonal products and soybeans in particular that are currently in the ground” are expected to be purchased rapidly in the fall. His testimony was offered just a day before the USDA reported that China purchased an additional 715,000 metric tons of soybeans, with 649,000 of those to be delivered in the 2020-21 marketing year. The nominee also mentioned that the U.S. is working on trade talks with Brazil and Kenya, which include exporting more ethanol to Brazil and lowering the ten percent tariff on wheat with the East African nation.

House Passes Conservation Bill– The House passed the Great American Outdoors Act on Wednesday 310-107 and now goes to President Trump’s desk for a likely signature. Despite opposition from the other Congressional leadership from his state, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), a co-sponsor of the House bill, said that the bill not only supports jobs “but it protects and maintains our public lands for generations that aren’t even born.” In contrast, Republican Senator Mike Lee and Republican Representative Rob Bishop from neighboring Utah both encourage the President should veto the bill. Senator Lee said the government “already owns too much land” and that it is ‘absurd’ for Congress to pass such a high spending bill while the government has been adding such high amounts of money to the deficit.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, July 28
  • 10:00 a.m. (EST) The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine “Carbon Dioxide Management Technologies in the United States.”
Wednesday, July 29
  • 10:15 a.m. (EST) The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to discuss “WTO Reform: Making Global Rules Work for Global Challenges.”
To see a full list of House and Senate Committee business, visit here.

MTA in Action 

Patterson Participates in Panel– MTA Director of Governmental Affairs, Barbara Patterson, participated in a virtual webinar with The Council on Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics (CFARE) to discuss career development for young professionals looking to enter the agriculture, agriculture policy, or applied economics workforce. In participation with three other professionals in different agriculture related industries, Patterson gave advice on pursuing dreams and advocating for one’s self in the workforce.

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.