The Trump administration is rushing to save farmers from the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns on the agricultural economy. The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Restuccia and Jesse Newman report:
President Trump announced a $19 billion relief program for the agriculture sector, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak, turning to a playbook the administration has used in its trade fight with China.
The effort, called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, will include $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers and $3 billion in mass purchases of dairy, meat and produce that will be distributed through food banks.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture “will do everything in our power to implement this program as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said during a White House news conference Friday.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended the U.S. food supply chain in recent weeks, slashing prices and demand for agricultural commodities as restaurants and schools sit closed, and disrupting food deliveries to grocery stores. Some farmers and food companies have ceased or slowed production as sales to restaurants and other providers evaporate. Stuck with huge quantities of food they can’t sell, U.S. producers are plowing under thousands of acres of vegetables, dumping millions of gallons of milk and destroying chicken-hatching eggs.
“Having to dump milk or plow under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing but it’s heartbreaking as well to those who produce them,” Mr. Perdue said.
The agriculture secretary said the department was using funds set aside under the recent coronavirus relief package, as well as money from the department’s Commodity Credit Corporation program. He said the Commodity Credit Corporation, a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes, would need to be replenished this summer.