Monday evening’s congressional passage of $900 billion dollars in COVID-19 relief aid includes nearly $13 billion for American farmers and ranchers.
As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven was pivotal to getting that support for the Ag sector.
In a year stymied with disaster-level market disruptions, KX News talked with North Dakota farm groups to see how this targeted funding will help the state’s farmers and ranchers.
The new relief package provides additional income streams for Ag producers.
“We certainly appreciate the efforts that Senator Hoeven has made and we appreciate the efforts that he has made in times of disaster, but we believe that the private sector is always the best distributor of moneys and whenever the government produces a package or gives out a relief,” explained NDFB Public Policy Liason and farmer, Emmery Mehlhof.
The relief package includes supplemental payments to non-specialty row crop farmers such as corn, beans, and wheat to the tune of 20 dollars per acre.
But those $20 dollar per acre payments exclude specialty crops, such as chick peas.
“There is always somebody who is included and somebody who is not,” said Mehlhof.
The relief package will also give payments to beef producers who may not have gotten relief during the initial CARES Act I & II packages.
The new Ag relief package also draws attention to bio-fuels.
“Our bio-fuel industry is really stressed right now with too much supply and giving them some dollars enabling to stay in place will create demand for our products,” explained North Dakota Farmers Union President & farmer, Mark Watne.
Along with that, there will be a number of PPP programs that farmers will be able to qualify for using their gross income to make the determination rather than their net income.
“Looking at the PPP program it’s a little hard and confusing to figure out what it means, but there could be upwards of $20 thousand dollars available for some farmers which would be just huge,” explained Watne.
The North Dakota Farm Bureau is optimistic about rising prices and getting things back to normal.
“We are excited about the rally in our crop prices and even our livestock prices. Of course, some of our farmers are not as fortunate to have reserve crop prices for these prices, so we do appreciate the support for them, but we’re excited about the future of agriculture,” said Mehlhof.
The North Dakota Farmers Union thinks that this relief package can be a catalyst for policy change in the upcoming US Farm Bill.
“Food safety, an abundant food supply, maintaining a diverse set of family farmers across the country. If you get back to determining what that is and don’t write that based on a budget, you write it for the need of the program, we wouldn’t have to have these ad hoc disaster programs,” said Watne.
The $900 billion dollar relief package remains in limbo as President Trump weighs whether to sign it into law. On Thursday – Christmas Eve, House Republicans blocked a last-minute move by Democrats to increase direct payments, an effort to capitalize on Trump’s comments that the relief payments in the newly passed legislation should be increased from $600 dollars to $2,000 dollars.
House.gov has a pdf of the latest COVID-19 relief bill.