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Montana Ag Network: Trump urges USDA to expedite farm relief

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Posted at 10:26 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-11 10:55:57-04

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT) impacts all Americans in some form. For agriculture, it comes as the pandemic has sent agricultural markets on a roller coaster.

ON Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted he's pushing for more aid for farmers.

“I have directed @SecretarySonny to expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are hurting right now. I expect Secretary Purdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe....”

Earlier that day during a coronavirus task force press conference, the president said his administration understands that the nation's farmers and ranchers need financial relief because of COVID-19.

“You see what's happened to farmers.Tthey got hurt very badly by all of this,” said Trump. “People are eating less from the standpoint that there's no restaurants open. No businesses are open. No hotels are open. They'll start to come back, but we're going to be helping out our farmers.”

The CARES Act includes $49 billion, or 2.45% of the $2 trillion measure, for agriculture-related provisions.

The act provides a total of $24.6 billion or 50% of the total ag funding for domestic food programs, like SNAP and Child Nutrition Programs.

For production agriculture, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which bolsters commodity and income support programs, was replenished with $14 billion. Add that to current funds on hand, the CCC will have $24 billion to assist producers.

There is also $9.5 billion in direct assistance for producers.

Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson, a Stevensville rancher, explained how it impacts Montana ranchers.

“They set aside $9.5 billion for livestock and farmers market types of things,” McPherson said. “But primarily livestock, which normally doesn't qualify for any of the commodity relief plans.”

McPherson added, “We just look forward to that money coming. Of course, we just want markets that are fair. We don't necessarily need government money, but we do need some help right now because things are so upside down.”

Agriculture groups have all weighed in on the eligibility criteria for the funding. It’s expected that early next week USDA will announce the details.

Most Montana farmers and ranchers may also be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans as well.