Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

USDA releases pandemic aid for smaller operations, related businesses

WASHINGTON, DC – As part of a new initiative announced in March – USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers – USDA is releasing $3-$4 billion for ag producers and businesses of $11 billion allocated.

According to USDA officials, the financial aid will reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs under the Trump administration where it’s estimated that the $45+ billion in aid to agriculture (plus billions more from the Paycheck Protection Program ) in 2020 went to large, industrialized farms over smaller, diversified ones, provided loopholes for corporate farms and ranches and sent sizable payments to foreign-owned operations.

The top 1 percent of recipients in 2020 got more than 20 percent of the money. The top 10 percent got over 60 percent of the funds, while the bottom 10 percent got just 0.26 percent. Ultimately, many struggling ag producers were unable to get access to any of Congress’ funds.

Under the new initiative, USDA has developed rules for new programs that put a greater emphasis on outreach to small producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuel, among others.

Existing programs like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will fall within the new initiative and, where statutory authority allows, will be refined to better address the needs of producers.

Ag Secretary Vilsack told the Senate Ag Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday, June 15 that the dairy help in the initiative includes a program to defray the costs of donated milk, supplemental margin coverage payments for small to mid-sized producers, and financial help to reduce the differential between class one and class three milk pricing.

“Because of a disproportionate number of purchases of cheese during the food box effort, that distorted the market and it caused a lot of harm to smaller producers. We’re putting resources in to reimburse those producers for some of the loss that they incurred.”

A total of $11 billion has been allocated since January using available pandemic assistance funds and Vilsack says more funding will also be announced next month in the pandemic program along with the Build Back Better program.

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