Clements: The $19 billion aid package announced by the Department of Agriculture will help farmers and ranchers who are hurting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief includes $16 billion in direct payments to producers with another $3 billion to purchase food products. Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation Congressional Relations Director, says farmers and ranchers need the relief.
Walmsley: We’re seeing impacts to farmers and ranchers across the country. Markets drying up with restaurants closing, food service, cafeterias, schools, being shut down, have had an immediate impact on a wide swath of growers, those that are selling fresh produce and specialty crops into restaurants, down to our dairy farmers where their milk typically goes in the school, then obviously the challenges for livestock producers.
Clements: Walmsley calls the aid package a good first step.
Walmsley: We see this as a down payment. The Secretary of Agriculture is using the resources Congress has given the department as a first step to meet some of the immediate needs that producers are seeing. We definitely think there’s going to be a need for more as this pandemic progress.
Clements: USDA will have access to an additional $14 billion this summer, and lawmakers are starting work on another economic relief package. Walmsley says the first relief package should be available to farmers and ranchers next month.
Walmsley: We expect in the next couple weeks that USDA will start making purchases for food assistance. It’s going to be a little bit longer until producers start seeing the assistance from the $16 billion. There’s still some process for USDA to go through. So, producers should hopefully see an opportunity to sign up in May and assistance starting to hit the countryside by June.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.