Trump Signs COVID Relief Bill – DTN

    U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. Photo: Suranga Weeratunga

    President Donald Trump signed the combined fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations and COVID-19 relief bill late Sunday after threatening to veto it.

    The presidential signature means that, as part of the provisions in the bill, there will be more aid to farmers and a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for the next six months.

    The signing of the bill also averted a government shutdown that would have begun Monday at midnight. Trump demanded changes in the bill, but Congress is not required to follow his direction.

    “I will sign the omnibus and covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Trump said in a statement.

    “I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.”

    Following Congress’ passage of the bill last Monday, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other farm groups highlighted some of the specific provisions for agriculture in the $900 billion aid package, as well as the $1.4 trillion overall government funding bill and tax-extenders package.

    The aid package passed by Congress included specific provisions for aid to livestock producers. The American Farm Bureau Federation looked at assistance for cattle producers based on a per-head basis.

    Nearly $1 billion will support a dairy donation program and supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage payments for small- and medium-sized producers. More help will be made available to specialty and non-specialty crop growers, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be expanded, which will allow small farmers to continue operating and paying their employees.

    Many farmers and ranchers who were previously left out of aid will now qualify for assistance, including growers who were forced to euthanize livestock during the initial wave of the pandemic.

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    The American Farm Bureau Federation worked for several months to ensure the needs of America’s farmers and ranchers were brought forward to lawmakers as they considered the latest stimulus package.

    “We’re pleased that Congress understands the toll the pandemic continues to take on farmers, ranchers and rural Americans,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said last week.

    “Farmers who were left out of previous aid packages or whose losses were far more devastating than recognized in initial aid are grateful that their families will be helped, too. We recognize the need is great across our entire economy and farm families will join the rest of America in our determination to recover from the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Highlights of the coronavirus stimulus bill include:

    • 80% reimbursement for losses due to premature euthanization or canceled orders.
    • $20 per planted acre for non-specialty crops. Farm Bureau highlighted that, based on 2020 crop acres, that likely breaks down to $1.8 billion for corn producers; $1.66 billion for soybeans; $886 million for wheat; $242 million for cotton; and $116 million for sorghum.
    • Crop insurance payments and disaster payments may be used to calculate 2019 sales.
    • $7 billion is allocated for broadband, including $300 million for rural broadband and $250 million for telehealth.
    • PPP funding may be used for COVID mitigation expenses.
    • Expenses paid with PPP loans will now be allowed as a tax deduction.
    • 15% increase in SNAP benefits.

    Along with those provisions, the bill also adds funds to the Wildfires Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP-Plus) to ensure remaining WHIP-Plus applications are paid.

    The Livestock Mandatory Reporting law also is extended through 2021. Perhaps Congress will find time to hold hearings over the next year on issues with the current law.

    The National Grain and Feed Association noted that another key element in the year-end package was the addition of the latest Water Resources Development Act. The bill, commonly known as WRDA, will lower the funding cost share for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund from 50% to 35%, and increase the costs from general federal revenue for those projects from 50% to 65%.

    The shift in cost share will boost the number of projects that can be funded annually with an additional $100 million available for lock-and-dam renovations. The bill would authorize 46 new waterway projects nationally, ranging from port upgrades to improving locks, dams and flood gates, as well as 27 different feasibility studies for future projects.

    For biofuels, Growth Energy noted the bill extended a number of critical tax credits for the industry, including a one-year extension of the Section 40 Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, a $1.01-per-gallon credit for second-generation biofuel produced; and two-year extension of the Section 45Q Tax Credit, a credit on a per-ton basis of carbon dioxide that is sequestered.

    To read the full statement from the president, visit: here.

    DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this article.

    Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

    Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

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