COVID Aid Efforts Suffer Setback in Senate

After a week of inter-party wrangling over details, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) indicated Thursday that the Senate Republicans’ COVID-19 relief proposal will likely be introduced on Monday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows spent the week negotiating the package with Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and other Senate Republicans. The White House and Senate Republicans reached an agreement in principle, as Mnuchin indicated, “We have a fundamental agreement, we’re just looking at language.”  

Among the details of the proposal is the White House agreeing to drop its payroll tax cut proposal in favor of $1,200 checks for individuals making up to $75,000 per year. The roughly $1 trillion relief package is expected to also include assistance for schools, childcare services, as well as resources for COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution. 

Additional assistance for the agriculture industry appears to enjoy continued support. Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) indicated on Thursday that the relief package includes $20 billion in aid for farmers. While the details are not final, the Senators said the funding would be a direct appropriation in addition to the $14 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation authority in the CARES Act. 

NPC is working with the larger specialty crop industry to ensure that this next round of funding includes additional flexibility for relief payments. The current direct payment program (Coronavirus Food Assistance Program or CFAP) is largely limited to losses that occurred prior to April 15. “We continue to urge that USDA be provided with the ability to support injured producers at least through the balance of 2020,” said Kam Quarles, NPC CEO. The industry is also pushing for continued surplus commodity purchases to clear out the oversupply resulting from the food service shutdown. 

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