WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN), members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and Representative Angie Craig (D-MN) announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will offer additional aid to agricultural producers and businesses as part of its Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative. This announcement follows a letter from the legislators calling on the agency to expedite relief payments to farmers, livestock producers, biofuel processors, and timber harvesters and haulers.
“The coronavirus pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for the entire agriculture industry and many rural communities across Minnesota,” said Klobuchar. “Agricultural producers and businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we must ensure they have the resources they need to keep our supply chain strong and competitive. By getting this relief out in a timely manner, we are doing just that.”
“Minnesota farmers, businesses, small towns and rural areas were all hit hard by the pandemic,” said Smith. “This funding will help farmers, ranchers, foresters, biofuel processors and businesses rebuild after facing more than a year of serious challenges during COVID. From addressing supply chain disruptions to market volatility, this funding is important to the rebuilding effort. I’ll keep working to direct much-needed federal relief to Minnesota communities.”
“As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, it’s absolutely vital that we give Minnesota’s agricultural producers the support they need to grow and succeed in 2021 and beyond,” said Craig. “I’m thrilled that these additional funds will soon be out the door – helping family farmers and businesses in rural America build a stronger and more resilient food system for years to come.”
Within the next 60 days, the funding below will be distributed:
- $700 million to biofuels producers
- $200 million to small, family-owned timber harvesting and hauling businesses
- Support for dairy farmers and processors:
- $400 million to the new Dairy Donation Program to address food insecurity and mitigate food waste and loss
- Additional pandemic payments targeted to dairy farmers that have demonstrated losses that have not been covered by previous pandemic assistance
- Approximately $580 million to supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage for small and medium farms
- Assistance for poultry and livestock producers left out of previous rounds of pandemic assistance:
- Contract growers of poultry
- Livestock and poultry producers forced to euthanize animals during the pandemic (March 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020)
- $700 million for Pandemic Response and Safety Grants for personal protective equipment and other protective measures to help specialty crop growers, meat packers and processors, seafood industry workers, among others
- Up to $20 million to additional organic cost share assistance, including for producers who are transitioning to organic
Klobuchar and Smith have been leaders in supporting agricultural and rural communities throughout the pandemic. In April 2020, the Senators successfully called on the Trump administration to make farmers eligible for federal small business support. Additionally, in May 2020 they sent a letter to Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging them to consider including provisions to authorize programs and funding for the USDA to assist the domestic poultry industry in legislation addressing the impact of the pandemic.
In September 2020, Klobuchar and Smith sent a letter asking the USDA to clarify why farmers were denied access to critical relief and the data being used to determine eligibility for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). And in December 2020, Klobuchar successfully pushed for relief for livestock producers to be included in the bipartisan year-end agreement before announcing in May that additional turkey growers who experienced pandemic-related revenue losses in 2020 were eligible to apply for payments through CFAP.
Smith also introduced legislation to secure aid for independent turkey farmers who were left out of past COVID-19 relief packages. Despite suffering losses, independent turkey farmers were not given access to previous COVID-19 relief programs for agriculture. Sen. Smith directed the USDA to include independent turkey farmers in future aid programs. Smith also led a bipartisan push to help pork producers after the pandemic shut down meat processing plants and restaurants and dried up billions of dollars in demand for their products.
Klobuchar has also been a leader in supporting biofuel producers. In May 2020, she introduced the Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to support biofuel producers negatively affected by the pandemic. In December 2020, Klobuchar successfully included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act explicit authority to USDA to make relief payments to producers of advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, conventional biofuel, or renewable fuels with market losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, based on Klobuchar’s Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act with Grassley. In March 2021, she and Grassley led a letter urging Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the USDA, to use the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and other resources to aid the nation’s biofuel industry.
Smith has also long fought for a strong RFS, both in Washington and during her time as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. In March 2020, as the coronavirus caused ethanol prices to drop to record lows, Smith pushed President Trump to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pressure that helped lead to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to appeal a unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals concerning small refinery exemptions. Smith is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.