US Congress passes $2 trillion stimulus package, with $9.5bn for agriculture

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

"As an essential industry, this funding is essential to keeping their businesses operating.” Pic: Getty Images
"As an essential industry, this funding is essential to keeping their businesses operating.” Pic: Getty Images

Related tags Congress legislation coronavirus COVID-19 Agriculture Dairy farmers

After several long days of negotiations in the Senate, an emergency relief bill has passed to help Americans impacted by coronavirus. It creates a $9.5bn COVID-19 agricultural disaster fund.

The bill addresses and includes livestock and dairy producers, and provides assistance to small businesses that are a part of the dairy supply chain. There is also $14bn in additional funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation that USDA can use to assist producers.

Legislation of the bill was still being finalized Wednesday, and may include relief to child nutrition programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

It passed late on March 25 with unanimous, bipartisan support in the Senate. It's expected to quickly move to President Trump's desk for signing.

Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF, said, “Dairy farmers have worked 24/7 to produce safe, affordable, and nutritious products for families throughout the coronavirus crisis, even as their own economic outlook grows darker.

“Forecasts for milk prices have dropped significantly in the past month, with greater declines possible as the COVID-19 outbreak continues. We are very grateful that Congress understands the significant economic challenges our farmers face and is rising to that challenge on a bipartisan basis.”

The bill will also authorize a one-time payment of $1,200 to every adult American, and an additional $500 per child. The timeline of administering these checks is still unclear, and could be delayed until May.

The Department of Education may suspend student loan payments until September, and $100bn will go to hospitals fighting the coronavirus firsthand. 

Unemployment insurance is also getting a boost. Many Americans have been suddenly laid off this month, those in dairy included, and the mandate to give the unemployed an extra $600 per week for up to four months may make a significant difference in the economy.

Jeff Lyon, general manager at the FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, said, “We are extremely appreciative of this bipartisan relief package and the attention that agriculture received during this time of need and uncertainty. As an essential industry, this funding is essential to keeping their businesses operating.

“We look forward to Congress passing the Senate coronavirus relief package, and hopefully soon. Passage of this legislation will boost finances and restore confidence for farmers panicking about how they can manage through this pandemic.”

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