Friday’s announcement of $19 billion in coronavirus-related direct payments and commodity purchases was welcome news in farm country, which is reporting a growing level of stress about the pandemic.
According to the American Soybean Association, 73% of respondents to a recent survey are “moderately or extremely concerned” about their farm being impacted by COVID-19. ASA also noted that open-ended questions in the survey generated “responses citing fear and stress.”
ASA CEO Ryan Findlay tells Agri-Pulse the responses are in line with recent communications he’s had with growers.
“Every time we meet, we do a front-line report, and everybody asks each other ‘Are you having any hiccups in your value chain?’” he said, recounting conversations with the ASA task force that put together the report. “Just in the last week or 10 days, those conversations have changed to not only say that, but ‘Anybody on your farm have it?’”
The surveys were submitted to 140 farmers who serve on the boards of ASA, the United Soybean Board, and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. Of those 140, 86 anonymous surveys were submitted, with answers being collected from 26 of the 30 primary soybean-producing states, ASA noted.
Friday’s announcement from USDA included $16 billion in direct payments to producers and another $3 billion in commodity purchases for distribution to food banks and faith-based organizations. The $16 billion fund is said to be broken down into specific amounts for livestock, row crop, and specialty crop producers, but USDA has not confirmed the exact amounts headed toward each commodity.
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department will push to have relief checks to producers by the end of May.
Findlay said ASA had confirmed with USDA that soybeans were included in the row crop carveout. He noted the aid package, while appreciated, needs to be further detailed and might need to be supplemented at another date.
“We’re going to be requesting additional assistance from both USDA and Congress; there’s no question about that,” Findlay said, noting the assistance “needs to fit the pain that is out there.”
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The National Corn Growers Association confirmed corn’s inclusion in the relief package in a release Monday. NCGA President Kevin Ross said agriculture is “facing immense uncertainty” as a result of the pandemic.“This much-needed relief will not only provide direct assistance to our nation’s corn farmers but also deliver much-needed relief to our customers who produce and feed livestock,” Ross said in a statement. “We thank Secretary Perdue for acting quickly and look forward to working with USDA on further program details.”
Farm group reaction to the aid package was mixed, but mostly optimistic, on Friday. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the aid “will help keep food on Americans’ tables,” but National Pork Producers Council President Howard “A.V.” Roth voiced concern that the program “will fall short of what is truly needed.”
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