The leader of the House Agriculture Committee says he wants to see more money go into USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp., but he’s willing to oppose a funding increase without conditions giving Congress more authority over how the money is spent.
House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told reporters Tuesday he has a number of conditions before he can support a funding increase for the CCC — the USDA fund used to offer trade mitigation and other payments to producers — including requiring signoff from the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate ag panels before any money is spent.
"What’s happening here is that the CCC and the appropriators have become the farm bill; they’re doing farm policy and they’re not the experts on farm policy,” he said. “It shouldn’t be that way. If the farm bill is going to be kind of an afterthought, which is what it is at this point, then we might as well abolish the ag committee.”
Peterson said he’s pushing for $68 billion in CCC funding – the amount that would have been realized had the original $30 billion figure in 1985 been indexed for inflation – and said he talked with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who “understands we need more money, and she’s supportive of that.”
Congressional signoff is just one of the provisions Peterson says he’ll need to support a CCC boost. He said he also wants some of the CCC money to go toward coming up with a plan “that’s ready to go when we hit the next crisis” and for human disease concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic to qualify for indemnity payments for livestock producers.
That issue was raised this week by four Iowa Republicans: Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Gov. Kim Reynolds, and state Ag Secretary Mike Naig. They say pork producers “will go out of business, and the industry could further contract and consolidate” without an indemnity for animals they are forced to depopulate due to processing facility shutdowns.
Peterson said Greg Ibach, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, has said an indemnity can only be offered to diseased animals, not a case of market disruption due to human disease.
USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Peterson said the committee will also launch a “top to bottom” investigation of commodity purchases and food distribution as he expressed several concerns about the bureaucratic hurdles facing food distribution.
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A bipartisan contingent of lawmakers - including many members of the ag committee - have introduced a bill that would provide $50 billion in additional aid to producers.
Packing plants shutting their doors due to COVID-19 outbreaks among their employees has caused a backup of hogs ready for harvest, forcing many producers to depopulate their herds.
According to Peterson, roughly 160,000 hogs per day nationwide will need to be depopulated; he estimated between 60,000 and 80,000 of that daily total would come from Minnesota.
The sudden lack of processing capacity has left many producers wondering how exactly to depopulate and dispose of their herds. According to Peterson, a JBS pork facility in Worthington, Minn., will begin on Wednesday using its shuttered plant to depopulate about 13,000 hogs per day using the same processes used in routine harvesting but diverting the hogs for disposal before going through standard processing protocols.
A JBS spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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