Thursday, December 31, 2020

U.S. farmers get even more subsidies

Despite record-high profits this year, the United States Senate has larded another $26 billion of farm subsidies into the $960-billion COVID-19 relief bill that President Donald Trump finally signed Tuesday.

About half of that goes into food programs for low-income Americans. They have always been part of the budgets for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farmers will receive $13 billion in new payments, this time more targeted than the previous COVID-19 subsidies.

House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson, who lost his re-election, insisted that it not be provided as a ‘slush fund’ to be distributed at the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture.  

Row crop farmers will receive a flat $20 per acre in payments for all crop types, totaling about $5 billion, and livestock producers who had to ‘depopulate’ their herds when meatpacking plants were either closed or operating at reduced capacity during the spring will receive some compensation for those animals.  

Payments will also be made to contract growers of livestock and poultry who did not benefit from previous relief packages.  

The Secretary will also be authorized to provide payments to producers of biofuels due to their unexpected losses during the spring.  

Specialty crop producers get $1.2 billion to purchase agricultural commodities for distribution via outlets such as food banks.

In addition, the bill provides $60 million as grants to small and medium sized meatpacking facilities to help them upgrade to federal meat inspection standards.

There is $20 million annually for the Agricultural Research Service to address gaps in nutrition research at the “critical intersection of responsive agriculture, quality food production, and human nutrition and health.”   

The is $28 million in state block grants to support farmer and rancher stress management due to COVID-19.  

Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas who is retiring and is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, got his National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Manhattan, Kansas, transferred from the Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The facility is being built to house highly sensitive research into plant and animal diseases that could devastate the U.S. agricultural sector, and is expected to be fully operational by December 2022.

This is what budgets look like when they're fashioned by committee and when leaders need to buy some politicians' votes to pass bills.