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House Agriculture Committee Passes Ag Portion of FY21 Budget Reconciliation Bill

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported on Wednesday that, “The $1.9 trillion relief plan moving through the House of Representatives has roughly $16.1 billion in specific provisions for USDAmainly for nutrition programs — but boosts in agricultural aid steered toward buying commodities or supporting minority or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

“The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday afternoon marked up agricultural provisions for the aid package.

A key part of the bill would boost food-aid benefits, which take up roughly $12 billion in the projected costs of the agricultural provisions. That includes a 15% boost in weekly benefits under USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for lower-income people and those out of work. The higher benefits would run at least through the end of September.”

House Ag Committee Chairman David Scott (D., Ga.) at Wednesday’s markup where the Committee considered the Budget Reconciliation Package.

Mr. Clayton explained that, “The aid package is moving through Congress under a budget reconciliation process that would allow the Senate to pass the bill without going through its typical 60-vote procedural approval. Both the House and Senate will pass their own versions of the aid package. On Tuesday, the language in the Agriculture and Nutrition title of the FY2021 Budget Reconciliation Act was released. On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee took up the bill.”

The DTN article noted that, “[Sen. Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.)] said in a news release late Tuesday that she had partnered with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Scott and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., who has jurisdiction over child nutrition programs, ‘To ensure the bill includes vital support to help families put food on the table, strengthen the food supply chain for farmers, provide critical support for farmers of color and fund rural hospitals.'”

Earlier this week, Reuters writer Christopher Walljasper reported that, “Lawmakers introduced two bills to help minority farmers this week, aiming to address longstanding injustices in the agricultural sector.

“Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock on Tuesday introduced a $5 billion Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief stimulus package. It aims to provide immediate financial relief to Black, indigenous and Hispanic farmers.

“The bill would provide direct payments to farmers of color and allocate $1 billion to address systemic racism at the U.S. Agriculture Department, provide legal assistance to farmers of color and grants and loans to improve land access for minorities.”

The Reuters article added that, “[The] proposal followed a more comprehensive bill introduced Monday night by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker: the Justice for Black Farmers Act.

“Booker’s bill would establish a new agency within the USDA to purchase land and convey grants of up to 160 acres to eligible Black individuals. It also would create a new Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Bank to offer new avenues of lending for farmers once turned away from USDA programs.”

And Politico writer Liz Crampton reported on Thursday that, “House Democrats on Wednesday evening advanced a proposal to provide more than $16 billion in relief for the food and agriculture industry.

“The House Agriculture Committee approved the measure 25-23 along party lines after considering about a dozen amendments during a lengthy markup. The proposal is part of the sweeping $1.9 trillion Covid relief package that Democrats are pushing through Congress.”

The Politico article pointed out that, “Numerous amendments offered by Republicans to redirect or reduce funding were defeated.”

Among these was, “An amendment from Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) that would allow biofuel producers to receive additional payments for unexpected losses due to the pandemic.”

Ms. Crampton added that, “One GOP amendment did slide through. A proposal from [Randy Feenstra, (R., Iowa)] to make crop losses from derechos eligible for disaster payments passed by a vote of 24-23 after garnering the support of one Democrat, Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa, whose state was pummeled by a derecho in August 2020 that was regarded as the most costly thunderstorm in U.S. history.”

A news release on Wednesday from Rep. Feenstra stated that, “Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a markup on the Democrats’ proposed $16.112 billion ag reconciliation bill.

In an effort to improve the bill, Rep. Randy Feenstra (IA-04) introduced amendments that were considered during today’s hearing — including one to authorize the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) to include those in need of assistance from last summer’s massive derecho storm, which exacerbated the challenges Iowa farmers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a big win for Iowa farmers, the House Agriculture Committee adopted Rep. Feenstra’s amendment.”

The news release added that, “Rep. Feenstra’s amendment would add a provision to make assistance available to producers who suffered disaster losses in 2020 — including losses due to high winds and the derecho that devastated a large swath of Iowa.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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