New COVID relief bill & ag

Signed by the president on Dec. 27, what does this new legislation mean for farmers?
EDITED BY ANNE BLANKENBILLER
COVID Relief

After a week of uncertainty, President Trump signed a year-end COVID-19 relief bill. The $900 billion spending bill includes a third round of coronavirus relief payments.

In addition to the coronavirus aid, the 5,593-page bill funds the federal government for fiscal 2021 and includes extensions of tax incentives for biofuels and renewable biofuels, new benefits for rural health providers, and a two-year water resources authorization bill that could accelerate reconstruction of waterway projects.

The legislation is an allocation of nearly $11.2 billion dollars to the USDA. As outlined by Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program, a large portion of the USDA funds will provide additional benefits for food processors, energy producers and timber harvesters, as well as funding for several other USDA programs and studies.  As categorized and summarized by Hall, a few areas of the USDA funds go to the following:

Crops

  • Supplemental CFAP payments of $20 per eligible acre for the 2020 crop year, for eligible “price trigger crops,” which includes barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton and wheat, and eligible “flat rate crops,” which includes alfalfa, amaranth grain, buckwheat, canola, cotton, crambe, einkorn, emmer, flax, guar, hemp, indigo, industrial rice, kenaf, khorasan, millet, mustard, oats, peanuts, quinoa, rapeseed, rice, rice, sweet, rice, wild, rye, safflower, sesame, speltz, sugar beets, sugarcane, teff, and triticale but excludes hay, except alfalfa, and crops intended for grazing, green manure, or left standing.
  • $100 million in additional funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

General payment provisions

  • In determining the amount of eligible sales for CFAP, USDA must include a producer’s crop insurance indemnities, non-insured crop disaster assistance payment and WHIP payments, and may allow a producer to substitute 2018 sales for 2019 sales.
  • USDA shall make additional payments under CFAP 1 and CFAP 2 to ensure that payments closely align with the calculated gross payment or revenue loses, but not to exceed the calculated gross payment or 80% of the loss.  For income determination, USDA shall consider income from agricultural sales, including gains, agricultural services, the sale of agricultural real estate, and prior year net operating loss carryforward.
  • USDA may take into account when making direct support payments price differentiation factors based on specialized varieties, local markets and farm practices such as certified organic production.

Additional funding has been allocated for training and outreach, timber and energy, food purchases, farm stress, marketing, nutrition, and livestock, poultry and dairy.

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