Farm groups ask for billions more in coronavirus aid

Although the USDA has distributed only 9 percent of the $16 billion in coronavirus aid earmarked for agriculture, three farm and ranch groups asked lawmakers for more on Wednesday. The American Farm Bureau Federation sent a five-page wish list to Congress that included a $38 billion increase in USDA spending power and a guarantee that undocumented farmworkers will not be targeted by immigration agents during the pandemic.

Despite federal efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, “farmers, ranchers, and the agricultural supply chain continue to endure significant hardships that will require further congressional action,” wrote AFBF president Zippy Duvall. The Farm Bureau said the coronavirus would reduce the value of crops and livestock production in 2019, 2020, and 2021 by $60 billion.

The National Corn Growers Association said producers would see a revenue decline equal to 35 cents a bushel on the 2019 corn crop and 50 cents a bushel on this year’s crop. The USDA estimates that a record-large corn crop this year will sell for an average of $3.20 a bushel, compared to $3.61 a bushel for the 2018 crop and $3.60 a bushel for the 2019 harvest.

And the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association said the $5.5 billion expected to go to ranchers from the $16 billion USDA relief fund was “far short of the estimated losses” of $16.5 billion for cattle. The USCA said the $250,000 limit on payments per rancher would provide too little relief at the ranch level.

The AFBF said the $250,000 payment limit should be dropped. It asked lawmakers to “support replenishment of Commodity Credit Corp. funding to $68 billion” — a $38 billion increase for the “USDA’s bank.” The CCC is the conduit for USDA spending and can spend up to $30 billion before having to ask Congress for additional funds. The USDA is to have access to $14 billion in additional funding after submitting a June 30 financial statement for the CCC.