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US NFU hails additional support for food and ag in COVID-19-relief bill

In a step towards passing a $1.9 trillion relief package, the House Agriculture Committee voted 25-23 in favour of the bill’s food and nutrition title, potentially giving $16.1 billion in relief to farmers.

14 February 2021, at 8:00am

If passed, the legislation would set aside a total of $16.1 billion worth of support for farmers, hungry Americans, and rural communities, including $3.6 billion to protect food and farm workers, redirect surplus commodities to food banks, and build resilience in the food supply chain.

Additionally, it would extend a 15% boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the end of September, facilitate the distribution of vaccines to rural health care providers, help small-scale meat processors by offsetting the cost of overtime inspection, provide farm loan assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers, and award funding to minority-serving institutions, among other things.

Following the passage of the last stimulus bill, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew indicated that there is “a long road to recovery ahead” and urged lawmakers to “offer additional relief as needed.” In a statement, he said he was encouraged that the committee had made such significant progress in the development of another package and urged the full chamber to pass it quickly.

“The relief that Congress has offered Americans families and businesses over the last 11 months has proven pivotal to their ability to ride out the pandemic. But it has by no means made them whole – far too many are still barely scraping by, living in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety. Not only is this not sustainable, but it also isn’t necessary; legislators can and should do everything within their power to help those who are hurting right now. We are encouraged that Congress is making substantial progress towards doing just that.

“This package includes a number of meaningful food and agricultural provisions that will help alleviate food insecurity, ensure the health and safety of food chain workers, expedite vaccinations in rural communities, lift up historically underserved farmers, and build resilience in the food system. Individually, these objectives are certainly worthwhile, and collectively they will bring us several steps closer to a full recovery. We applaud the House Agriculture Committee for their efforts and urge the rest of the chamber to provide Americans with much-needed assistance by swiftly passing this bill.”