Congress agrees to complex aid to farmers and the hungry
Congress has reached agreement on a huge combined fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations bill and coronavirus aid package that includes various forms of aid to farmers, an increase of 15% in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for six months, and other nutrition assistance.
After Congress passed a 24-hour continuing resolution Sunday to fund the government though midnight tonight, the House is expected to vote on the package today.
It’s not yet clear whether the Senate will vote on the package today or whether Congress will pass a week-long continuing resolution to allow the Senate to vote at a more leisurely pace and send the package to President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, the White House advised that the Trump family will leave for Florida Wednesday for the Christmas holiday.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., released the details of the agriculture and nutrition provisions in a news release late Sunday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hunger crisis that has touched every part of our nation,” Stabenow said.
“As many as 50 million Americans are not able to feed themselves and their families. After many months of pushing for a critical SNAP increase and other funding to address the hunger crisis in our country, I am very pleased that we finally reached a bipartisan agreement that will help both families and farmers in need. Farmers will receive the support they need to keep their farms and businesses going. I am relieved that help is on the way and I look forward to continuing to do more in the New Year to help Americans through this continuing crisis.”
The agriculture and nutrition provisions are remarkable in three ways.
First, the aid to producers and to nutrition beneficiaries is split equally. While the Senate bipartisan bill called for $13 billion in aid to farmers and $6 billion in nutrition benefits, the final package provides $13 billion for each program.
Second, the bill provides a 15% SNAP increase for six months rather than the three months that the bipartisan Senate bill had proposed. That provision is especially remarkable since there were reports that House Agriculture Committee Republicans had objected to the nutrition aid.
Third, the aid to farmers is detailed rather than an amount of money over which the Agriculture secretary would have total discretion. Democrats have questioned whether the distribution of aid to farmers made by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been appropriate.
Stabenow said the bill:
▪ Provides an estimated $5 billion for supplemental $20 per acre payments to all row crop producers.
▪ Provides an estimated $225 million for supplemental payments to producers of specialty crops if they lost their crop in 2019.
▪ Provides up to $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers, contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry due to COVID crisis.
The bill also includes food purchases, dairy donations, aid to small meat and poultry processors, additional specialty. crop grants and other forms of aid.
–The Hagstrom Report
Stabenow Leads Effort for Increases in Food Assistance, Support for Farmers in Final COVID-19 Package
The bill helps combat the hunger crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides much-needed help for farmers, families and rural communities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, partnered with Chairman Pat Roberts to successfully lead bipartisan negotiations to increase food assistance for families and provide help to farmers and food suppliers in the final COVID-19 package. The final bill includes a 15% increase in SNAP benefits and provides additional funding for food banks and senior nutrition programs. Along with her work to fight the hunger crisis, Ranking Member Stabenow secured $13 billion in food purchases and direct support for farmers and ranchers to support and build resiliency in our food supply chain.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hunger crisis that has touched every part of our nation. As many as 50 million Americans are not able to feed themselves and their families. After many months of pushing for a critical SNAP increase and other funding to address the hunger crisis in our country, I am very pleased that we finally reached a bipartisan agreement that will help both families and farmers in need. Farmers will receive the support they need to keep their farms and businesses going. I am relieved that help is on the way and I look forward to continuing to do more in the New Year to help Americans through this continuing crisis,” said Senator Stabenow.
Earlier this year, Ranking Member Stabenow introduced The Food Supply Protection Act with Senator Lisa Murkowski to help protect the food supply after the COVID-19 crisis has put an unprecedented strain on farmers, workers and food banks. This final bill continues her work to fill the gaps in the broken food supply chain, reduce food waste, and help farmers, workers, processors, food banks, and families in need.
Ranking Member Stabenow led efforts to secure the following provisions:
Increases in SNAP Benefits for Millions of Americans Facing Hunger
Provides a 15% increase in SNAP benefits for 6 months (through June 30, 2021) for all SNAP participants.
Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility.
Provides college students access to SNAP by waiving requirements that apply only to students and giving them access to SNAP similar to impacted workers with reduced work hours due to COVID.
Provides $5 million to add additional retailers to online SNAP, including for farmers markets and direct to consumer sales.
Provides $100 million for SNAP state administrative expenses
Provides $614 million for nutrition grants to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa.
Supporting Food Banks and Seniors
Provides $400 million for food banks through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) with up to 20 percent for distribution of commodities.
Provides $13 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) with up to 20 percent for State administrative expenses.
Provides $175 million for nutrition services for seniors under the Older Americans Act, such as Meals on Wheels
Expands food access for children
Includes improvement to Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) that will expand access to food benefits for children by allowing all children under age 6 to be deemed “enrolled” in child care, so they will be eligible for P-EBT benefit. The bill also clarifies what constitutes a “closure” making it easier to reach school-aged children with P-EBT assistance when schools are shifting between in-person, virtual and hybrid schooling.
Includes emergency funds for schools and daycares that are facing increased costs and reduced participation due to COVID. Because funding for schools and daycares are tied directly to participation, many are facing budget shortfalls, putting in jeopardy their ability to continue to offer meals to children. The bill would provide funding to ensure these critical feeding programs may continue.
WIC Online Taskforce
Establishes a taskforce to test new technology in WIC to help with online, deliveries, self-checkout and other measures.
Farmers and Ranchers
Provides an estimated $5 billion for supplemental $20 per acre payments to all row crop producers.
Provides an estimated $225 million for supplemental payments to producers of specialty crops if they lost their crop in 2019.
Provides up to $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers, contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry due to COVID crisis.
Food Purchases, Worker Protection, and Food Supply Chain
Supports food purchases, donations, and worker protection by including no less than $1.5 billion to fund purchases of food for distribution to those in need, and to provide worker protection measures, and retooling support for farmers, farmers markets, and food processors to respond to COVID-19. Includes a mandatory review of USDA food purchasing and distribution.
Supports dairy product donations by providing $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot milk donation program, to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste.
Supports small meat and poultry processing by providing $60 million in grants to small meat and poultry processors to make improvements necessary to expand their markets by meeting federal food safety inspection standards. Grants may be used for modernizing or expanding facilities, modernizing equipment, and implementing other processes to ensure food safety.
Diversity of Agriculture
Supports fruit and vegetable producers by including $100 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) to support specialty crops and enhance their resiliency and ability to respond to COVID-19 through investments in marketing of crops, increasing training, and investing in research, among other uses.
Supports local agriculture and farmers markets by including $100 million for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and provides additional flexibilities to help producers, local food businesses, and farmers markets respond to supply chain issues and adapt to local market conditions due to COVID-19.
Supports underserved farmers and ranchers by including $75 million for the Farming Opportunities Training Outreach (FOTO) program and provides additional flexibilities to support minority, tribal, veteran, and beginning famers access to USDA disaster programs and help adapt their farm businesses to respond to COVID-19.
Supports healthy food purchases by including $75 million for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and provides additional flexibilities to directly respond to COVID-19 by incentivizing purchases of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants which supports farmers and retailers and stimulates local economies.
Supports farmers’ mental health by including $28 million in state block grants to support farmer and rancher stress management due to COVID-19.
–US Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow
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