When crop insurance indemnities and unemployment benefits are counted, the government sent $57.7 billion to farm operations and farm households in 2020, while the pandemic sent the U.S. economy into recession, said a working paper by USDA economists. It was the highest estimate yet of federal assistance to farmers last year and the most inclusive.
The final coronavirus aid package of the year would direct 3 percent of its $900 billion in funding to food assistance and relief for agricultural producers, according to its Democratic and Republican sponsors. "It's a deal that must come together," said one of the sponsors, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, on Sunday.
Farmers and ranchers will need assistance from the federal government beyond the $16 billion in cash payments that were promised a month ago, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. During a broadcast interview, Perdue said producers will be eligible for more than the $125,000 per commodity that was proposed by the USDA.(No paywall)
When the Trump administration poured billions of dollars into rural America to mitigate the impact of trade war, "most of it bypassed the country's traditional small and medium-sized farms that were battered by the loss of their export market," said the CBS News program 60 Minutes on Sunday. It's just as likely big farmers will benefit in a big way when the USDA disburses $16 billion in coronavirus-relief cash to farmers and ranchers, said the program.
Farmers and ranchers will need billions of dollars in coronavirus aid beyond the $16 billion in cash that USDA plans to disburse by June, 28 senators said in a letter to President Trump. At the same time, a band of university economists said USDA aid is weighted 4-to-1 toward producers and that the agency "should arguably show an equivalent amount of creativity to help the broader spectrum of struggling Americans with food needs."(No paywall)
Farmers will get cash payments of up to $250,000 apiece — possibly more, depending on the rules — to survive an estimated 20-percent drop in farm income this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump announced $16 billion in direct agricultural aid and said additional money might be be spent this summer to bolster the sector.(No paywall)
The federal government could provide 40 percent of U.S. farm income this year, according to one analysis of the coronavirus relief funds. President Trump said at least $16 billion will be available "very quickly" for the farm sector.(No paywall)
The two largest U.S. farm groups want lawmakers to nearly double the funding for "USDA's bank," the Depression-era vehicle for multibillion-dollar Trump tariff payments, and give Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue the power to help farmers and ranchers through the coronavirus outbreak. Commodity prices are down sharply and the head of the FAPRI think tank says farm income is likely to be "significantly lower" than expected due to economic disruptions caused by the virus.(No paywall)
Besides weighing potential market prices against the cost of fuel, fertilizer and seeds, farmers have a new factor for their planting decisions: Will it assure them of a trade war payment? President Trump's suggestion that if his trade deals with China and other nations are slow to bear, "aid will be paid by the federal government," could encourage farmers to plant more land this spring than would otherwise be justified.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he'll have a decision "sooner rather than later" — maybe by Friday or maybe next week in Iowa with the president — on whether unplanted cropland will be eligible for Trump tariff payments this year. The USDA initially said unplanted land would not be eligible for the up to $14.5 billion in trade-mitigation payments, but the huge amount of flooded land in the Midwest prompted a second look at the question.