Headquarters at home for Vilsack

Like millions of Americans, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is working from home. "I'm still in Iowa," he told reporters on Thursday. "I just got my second shot" of coronavirus vaccine.

U.S. to donate masks to food banks and pantries

The government will distribute more than 25 million washable face masks through community health centers and the food bank network over the next three months, announced the White House on Wednesday.

House panel to vote on SNAP extension and minority farmer debt relief

Following President Biden's lead, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee proposed an extension until Sept. 30 of the temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits on Tuesday. Chairman David Scott also included a sweeping proposal for the government to pay off USDA loans and USDA-guaranteed loans held by socially disadvantaged farmers "to put our Black farmers in a better position" after decades of discrimination. No paywall

Pandemic leads to highest SNAP enrollment in three years

Food stamp enrollment has surged by 6 million people since the pandemic hit the United States, said the USDA on Wednesday in its first update of SNAP participation in months. Some 42.9 million people received food stamps at latest count, the highest number since October 2017.

USDA to allocate nearly $2 billion in coronavirus aid to contract growers

Contract growers of hogs, poultry and eggs are eligible for an estimated $1.98 billion in coronavirus aid, announced the USDA. The payments, along with a “top up” of aid to hog farmers, are the first to flow from the $13 billion earmarked for agricultural assistance in the pandemic relief bill …

Fruit and vegetable growers face coronavirus squeeze

With Americans spending more of their food dollars at the supermarket, the specialty crop sector will continue to adapt to the pandemic and the loss of food-service sales in the new year, said agricultural lender CoBank. "Steep financial losses from the loss of food service contracts will ultimately result in the rationalization of some processing assets and production acreage."

Covid cases in meatpacking counties were 10 times those in other rural counties

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, rural meatpacking counties had infection rates 10 times higher than rates in other rural counties, said the USDA on Thursday. And despite improvements, the Covid-19 rate in the 49 U.S. counties that rely on meat plants for jobs remains somewhat higher than in the rest of rural America as the disease surges again.

Ag and ethanol groups ask Biden for help at home and overseas

The ethanol industry, which says it has lost $3.8 billion in sales since March, is looking to the Biden administration for relief at the same time that farm groups want the new president to resolve the trade war with China. But a Purdue University professor said it was unlikely Biden would immediately undertake broad-scale trade reform, pointing out that "he has other priorities that take precedence."

Coronavirus package boosts SNAP benefits by 15 percent

A bipartisan Senate coronavirus relief package would increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent through April and provide additional funding for WIC and food donations to food banks, according to a summary released on Wednesday.