Danger signs for 2023 farm bill in partisan rancor on Capitol Hill

Congress traditionally enacts the farm policy bills covering the gamut from crop subsidies to food stamps at the urging of a coalition of farm, conservation and anti-hunger groups. A former USDA official said the 2023 farm bill could be in peril if there is a repetition of the political turbulence that temporarily derailed the omnibus legislation twice in the eight years.

Contract livestock producers get $270 million in pandemic aid

Payments totaling $270 million are being made to so-called contract producers to offset revenue lost to the pandemic in 2020, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. Previous aid programs were directed at the owners of livestock but not the farmers who produced hogs, poultry, and eggs under contract to them.

Pandemic payments to farmers top $30 billion

Farmers and ranchers have received nearly $30.6 billion in coronavirus relief payments in the past 17 months, according to USDA data released on Monday. Pandemic assistance is a major element in farm income this year, as it was in 2020, and is projected to equal one-fourth of net farm income.

Pandemic brought 17-percent drop in school meals

Federal waivers that allowed schools to hand out "grab and go" meals to students, and that made meals free to all students, were powerful tools in blunting the impact of the pandemic on food insecurity among children, said USDA economists. Although the number of school meals declined 17 percent in fiscal 2020, because of the waivers 1.7 billion meals were served from March-May 2020 "that may have otherwise not been distributed," they said in a Covid-19 working paper.

Burst of USDA top-up pandemic payments to farmers

Farmers have received $4.8 billion in long-promised payments of $20 an acre on crops that range from corn, soybeans, and wheat to sorghum and sugar beets, said USDA data on Monday. It was the largest disbursement of coronavirus relief funds since the Biden administration took office.

One in seven rural Americans lived in poverty during 2020 pandemic

Nearly 6 million people in rural America had incomes below the poverty line during the pandemic year of 2020, an increase of 315,000 from the preceding year, according to a Census Bureau estimate released on Tuesday. The annual Income and Poverty report indicated that one in seven rural residents lived in poverty, compared to the national average of one in nine.

Big drop in farm income forecast as pandemic aid ends

After reaching its highest level since 2013, U.S. net farm income would tumble by one-fifth next year, despite continued high crop and livestock revenue, said the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute on Tuesday. "Under current policies, farm income could drop again in 2022, as government payments decline and production expenses continue to rise," the think tank said.

Vilsack sets $700-million program to help farm and meatpacking workers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $700 million grant program to provide direct financial relief to U.S. farm and meatpacking workers hit hard by Covid-19. But it was unclear whether undocumented immigrants, who make up roughly half of all farmworkers and nearly a quarter of meatpacking workers, would be eligible.

With $8.75 billion, USDA nears bottom of pandemic aid list

Since it revamped its pandemic relief programs in March to "reach a broader set of producers," the Agriculture Department has committed $8.75 billion in assistance to farmers and ranchers, including $750 million for the dairy sector and up to $1 billion for contract growers of pigs and poultry. Only a few items remained on its list for implementation on Tuesday, among them $700 million for biofuel producers.

Farmland values soar despite pandemic

Fueled by strong commodity prices and continued pandemic assistance, farmland values are skyrocketing, up by 14 percent in the central Midwest and by 10 percent in the central Plains, said the Federal Reserve banks in Chicago and Kansas City on Thursday.