The State Department agreed to accelerate approvals of H-2A farm workers by waiving interviews for many applicants, a move welcomed by agricultural groups who feared that embassy cutbacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic would leave farms without needed labor.
Congressional leaders have reached agreement on a $2 trillion economic rescue package that would replenish the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp. authority and earmark additional money for livestock and specialty crop producers as well as local agriculture.
A massive economic stimulus bill that congressional leaders are rushing to finish could allow the Agriculture Department to provide multiple forms of aid to different sectors hit by the coronavirus epidemic as well as a fresh round of Market Facilitation Program payments, a key senator says.
Farm groups are lobbying Congress and the Trump administration for a number of relief measures to help producers cope with the slide in many commodity markets that has deepened as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.
Local and regional agriculture and food markets stand to lose up to $688.7 million in sales through May because of the shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to analysts familiar with the sector.
Commodity markets continue to skid and farmers are heading into planting season facing the prospect of a global recession spawned by the coronavirus pandemic that could further depress demand for key ag commodities, including meat and ethanol, economists say.
Federal agencies are cutting travel and preparing to operate with staff disruptions because of the coronavirus outbreak, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signaled that he’s open to expanding feeding programs if Congress gives him the legal authority.
The Market Facilitation Program has made a significant difference in liquidity for many farms across the country, including Midwest grain operations as well as cotton and rice growers, but many farms are still likely to end this year with negative ending cash, according to an analysis of the trade assistance.