SALT LAKE CITY — Business closures and slowdowns due to COVID-19 safety measures have had an especially devastating impact on the American dairy farmer.
Approximately 50% of dairy products are sold to institutional accounts like schools and airlines. When that business dries up, dairy farmers have no other choice than to throw the milk down the drain and wait for things to get better.
Add the shrinking markets in Asia, and the trouble faced by America’s agricultural community becomes even more clear.
Senators asking for reassurance for American dairy farmers
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assure that money set aside for agriculture in the CARES Act, is spent as it was intended to be spent.
“It was the intent of Congress that the secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Purdue, would use those funds to stabilize prices and stabilize the market,” Romney said, in an interview with KSL Newsradio.
“We’re calling on the secretary to use those funds as intended, to help our ranchers and farmers.”
The CARES Act and American dairy farmers
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. It provides $100 billion in relief funds to hospitals and healthcare providers. It is also intended to be used to counter healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue that can be traced to the virus.
The bill signed March 27th was the third phase of a stimulus package intended to help employers, employees, families, and individuals navigate the financial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
So where do agriculture providers fit in?
A letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Purdue from Sen. Romney and 13 other Republican senators addresses that question.
“The Congress provided several ways in the CARES Act to help the dairy industry,” the Senators said in the letter. “We urge you to develop strong measures to help mitigate the current market upheaval so that the dairy industry can survive this crisis.”
Specific needs of American dairy farmers in the CARES Act
According to the Farm Bureau, the immediate needs of the American agricultural industry in the wake of COVID-19 are addressed in the CARES Act in several ways. It offers financial assistance so that the children of low-income families have access to healthy and affordable food.
It assures continued funding for the CCC, or the Commodity Credit Corporation, by which the U.S. government assists with domestic farm income, price support, and conservation programs. The CCC also assists with the development of foreign markets.
The Act also helps farmers specifically with $9.5 billion “to provide financial support to farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID-19 coronavirus … specifically for specialty crops, producers who supply local food systems and farmers’ markets, restaurants and schools, livestock producers, i.e. cattlemen and women, and dairy farmers.”
Do what the bill intended
“We’re calling on the Secretary [of Agriculture] to take action and use those funds as intended to help our ranchers and farmers,” Senator Romney told KSL Newsradio.
“We’d like Secretary Purdue to use this CARES Act funding in a much more robust way.”
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