USDA’s coronavirus payments to farmers creep to $7 billion

With 18 days left for to apply for coronavirus aid, farmers and ranchers have received $7 billion of the $16 billion earmarked for assistance, an increase of $218 million from the previous week, said the USDA on Monday. Farm and agribusiness groups say the Aug. 28 deadline for applications should be extended and that the government should revise its eligibility rules and the payment limit of $250,000 per farmer or entity.

Livestock producers have received half of the aid money, $3.54 billion, with cattle getting the bulk of that, $3.06 billion. Hog producers got $442 million. Slightly more than a quarter of the aid has gone to row-crop farmers, and nearly one-fifth went to dairy farmers. Farmers in Iowa got about $1 of every $10 disbursed so far — $714 million in all.

Big farmers are the greatest beneficiaries, said NBC News, based on its analysis of the first 700,000 payments. “The top 10 percent of recipients got average payments of almost $95,000, while the bottom 10 percent averaged around $300.” NBC News said, “Many struggling farmers remain ineligible for assistance, unable to get access to any of Congress’ funds.”

In a statement, the USDA defended the integrity of the relief program: “USDA acted quickly to assist America’s farmers and ranchers — of all sizes and for all market outlets — as they faced the initial fallout of Covid-19.”