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In pandemic, federal government goes into overdrive and makes ag a priority

Friday, May 29, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Aaron Stauffacher, assoc. dir. of govt. affairs
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The national health crisis caused by COVID-19 has created a whirlwind of actions by the federal government.  

As of late May, Congress had passed, and the president had signed, four pieces of legislation. The bills account for a combined appropriation of nearly $2.5 trillion and touch just about every aspect of our nation’s economy, including our dairy farms and other agricultural businesses. 

Under that legislation, within a matter of weeks, or days in some cases, we witnessed the creation and quick implementation of unprecedented programs for individuals, employers and businesses 

Plenty of partisan politics have played out during this crisis, but we have also seen a tremendous amount of bipartisan work. Deservedly, our farmers have received broad bipartisan recognition. This includes nearly every one of our elected officials in Edge’s market. Not a day has gone by without some demonstration of support. Whether promoting equal access and opportunity for the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans or helping us work against payment limitations in the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, we have had a lot of advocacy from many of our folks in Washington, D.C.   

Because of this crisis, I believe the public and our customers have a deeper appreciation of farmers and the work they do to get food from the farms to the grocery store. I know many in my generation never dreamed of seeing shelves that held staple foods depleted. This deeper appreciation has extended to our lawmakers. The conversation regarding agriculture is not so much about whether to further fund and support farmers and agriculture along our food supply chain, but rather how to do so.  

In any case, if there is to be additional support, Congress will have to provide it because money at USDA will be tapped out. In mid-May, the Democratic-controlled House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the possible fifth pandemic response package, largely along party lines. This behemoth of a bill would spend an additional $3 trillion for many different priorities, including agriculture. The Republican-controlled Senate dismissed the bill, not wanting to pass another broad spending package at this time 

Even though the HEROES Act is not expected to become law, it may serve as a baseline for future negotiations. This is good news for agriculture as it was not the target of criticism. The major highlight for farmers in the bill is an additional $16.5 billion for direct payments to account for more second quarter losses. Numerous other dairy and commodity specific provisions would provide targeted support or alleviate certain pressures on the supply chain. 

The Edge team fully understands that the support thus far has not and will not make all farms whole from the losses they suffered due to COVID-19. However, we are committed to filling the gaps to make sure our members have the resources to overcome the damage. This is where we will also need your help and engagement to make sure our elected officials support for farmers remains strong. Please take time to reach out to your elected officials to share how the pandemic is affecting your farm business, and contact us with questions, concerns or ideas as we all work to rebound from the unpredictable start of the year.  

Aaron can be reached at or (608) 482-2438.

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