With the stroke of a pen President Donald Trump signed another $484 billion package approved by Congress to try to buoy an economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bulk of the monies will be steered toward the continuation of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s popular Paycheck Protection Program that is designed to incentivize employers to save jobs. Lawmakers said farmers and ranchers and agribusinesses that meet the criteria and missed out on the first program are encouraged to work with their lender to access the program.

The bill includes $310 billion to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, $25 billion for coronavirus testing and $75 billion for hospitals, said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS, who noted the legislation will save jobs and help with testing means people can safely return to work and allow the economy to recover.

Moran said a bipartisan effort with to help eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program could go along way to help stabilize the farming and ranching industry. He noted that more than $13 billion in harm has occurred in the cattle industry and $5 billion in the pork industry and that harm occurred was not the result of typical market forces. The letter, endorsed by 26 senators, was supported by 13 farm and commodity organizations.

Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D., helped lead a letter signed by 126 members of the House of Representatives asking Trump and the administration to eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers before the final Coronavirus Food Assistance Program details are announced.

“Kansas farmers and ranchers have suffered years of low commodity prices, tight or non-existent profit margins and unsettling market conditions," Marshall said. “The impact of COVID-19 has only made a bad situation worse, leaving many farm and ranch families questioning their ability to remain viable for the next generation.” 

Lifting the payment caps is an important and necessary step to ensuring the future of the state’s livestock and dairy industries, Marshall said. The Kansan is a member the House Agriculture Committee. While some farmers and ranchers produce multiple commodities, many cattle, pork and dairy operations are solely invested in livestock. Beef and pork producers were the first to see the impacts of COVID-19 when demand in southwest Asia declined and markets lost more than 25% of their value. The impacts have only worsened as COVID-19 cripples American markets and disrupts supply chains. The beef industry has already lost an estimated $13 billion with dairy and pork seeing an additional $5 billion in losses so far. All livestock owners are suffering insurmountable loses at this time, and the ripple effects of these losses will be devastating to agriculture lenders and the Kansas economy.“We are optimistic Secretary (Sonny) Perdue and the administration will work to provide payment limitation flexibility within CFAP to allow our farmers and ranchers to access the assistance they desperately need," Marshall said. "We must continue to do everything we can to keep our producers in business to ensure we continue to have the safest, most affordable, and highest quality food in the world.”Farm Credit Council President and CEO Todd Van Hoose made the following statement after Congress passed the latest funding to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Farm Credit applauds the quick action by Congress and President Trump in approving this latest assistance package. We will do everything in our power to get farmers and ranchers access to funding through the Paycheck Protection Program. With the unprecedented disruption in our nation’s food supply chain, ag producers face low prices at the farm gate while consumers pay higher prices in the grocery store. Farmers will need even more assistance in the weeks ahead to secure our food supply and continue their role as the first step in the food supply chain.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, said the legislation will help small businesses in his state. “The Paycheck Protection Program is keeping small businesses across Kansas and the nation operational during this unprecedented time. When the money ran dry after only two weeks, Congress needed to act fast to provide additional funding to keep these small businesses functioning. I am glad President Trump has approved $310 billion in additional funding so that these businesses and their employees can receive crucial assistance.”

The National Corn Growers Association has supported the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. In a news release the organization noted demand for PPP is expected to remain high. Farmers interested in participating are encouraged to contact their lender as soon as possible. The legislation also makes farms eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, clarifying that agricultural businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible and makes $60 billion available for the program.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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