CARES Act Would Allow USDA To Provide Direct Aid For Producers

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

Omaha (DTN) – President Donald Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion stimulus package dubbed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act after the House passed the bill earlier.
The president signed the bill into law March 27 at the White House. Agriculture is among the industries with aid set aside, which includes providing USDA $14 billion more in funding authority under the Commodity Credit Corp., allowing USDA to craft an aid package to farmers who have seen commodity prices crash since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “At USDA we will deliver relief assistance to farmers and ranchers as quickly as possible. Americans across the nation are stepping up to the challenges facing them during these uncertain times. At USDA we are doing our part to ensure those who need help will get it, whether it’s through nutrition assistance, ensuring the food supply chain is safe and secure, or through new flexibilities with our Rural Development loan programs.”
The bill passed the House by a voice vote despite concerns raised by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who drew the ire of both colleagues and President Trump for stalling the legislation. Massie’s procedural moves led to four hours of floor debate, then he called for a roll-call vote though that request was denied. On Twitter, Trump called Massie “a grandstander” and suggested Massie be thrown out of the Republican Party. Lawmakers from both parties cheered on the House floor after the bill passed.
Senators had passed the legislation March 25.
Agricultural groups representing various commodities had praised Congress for crafting the legislation, recognizing how grains, livestock and specialty crops had all been affected in different ways by the economic shutdown caused by the virus.
Overall, the bill provides USDA roughly $48.9 billion to respond to the coronavirus, along with added funding for the Food and Drug Administration as well. The legislation also includes a $9.5 billion assistance program that would more directly support livestock operations, including dairy farmers, as well as specialty crop producers. Farmers who sell directly to farmers markets, schools and restaurants would also be eligible for aid.
The bill includes $15.5 billion for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the single-largest food-aid program in the country. Child nutrition programs would receive another $8.8 billion, and there are special provisions to distribute food aid on Native American reservations as well.
USDA’s Rural Development programs would receive $25 million for distance learning and telemedicine programs. Lawmakers cited the value in boosting telemedicine as a way to treat patients without possibly spreading of the disease for people who do not need hospitalization. Another $100 million would also go to further boost rural broadband as well.
Nationally, the bill creates a $500 billion direct corporate aid program. Small businesses would have access to roughly $367 billion in loan programs with the caveat that they keep their workers during the coronavirus crisis. If employers continue paying workers, the loans would be forgiven. The bill also includes $25 billion directly for the airline industry.
Beyond loans, the bill would allow the Small Business Administration to provide $10,000 grants to small businesses as well.
The bill includes direct aid that will be sent to American families as well. Individual taxpayers would receive checks of $1,200 per year if they earned less than $75,000, which would be based on the adjusted gross income of taxpayers based on 2018 or 2019 tax returns. Married couples earning less than $150,000 would receive $2,400 and every child claimed on a tax return would be worth another $500.
To deal with the ramifications for health care from the coronavirus, the bill also would provide $130 billion for hospitals as well as $150 billion for state and local governments. For certain rural hospitals classified as Critical Access Hospitals, the bill would boost Medicare payments to 125% of medical costs for at least a six-month period. The White House had already ordered that Critical Access Hospitals also could expand their beds to deal with the potential rise in patients.

H-2A Visa Waiver Expanded

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

Omaha (DTN) – Farmers who rely on H-2A workers received a little more relief from the State Department with an announcement that U.S. consulates will expand the group of H-2 applicants who can get visas without an in-person interview.
Agricultural groups and farmers who employ guest workers have been concerned since the State Department announced March 20 that it was suspending all non-emergency visa applications. March 26’s announcement opens the door for more H-2A and H-2B workers to continue entering the country for work. Embassies and consulate offices shut down such visa processing to eliminate direct contact with applicants because of the coronavirus.
The State Department noted, “The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority. Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions.”
The decision allows consulates to waive the visa interview requirements for both returning workers and first-time applicants, the State Department said. Also, prior H-2 workers who have held visas going back 48 months also can apply again without an interview as well. The State Department said this change should ensure the vast majority of H-2 applicants will be reviewed without needing an interview.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue credited both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security for making the H-2 changes.
“Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” Perdue said in a statement. “H-2 Labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.”
The H-2A program brought in roughly 257,000 workers last year, of which about 90% come from Mexico. They work on nine-month visas during that time.
Organizations representing largely fruit and vegetable growers that rely on H-2A workers praised the new waivers, saying the decision will help ensure food security.
“We are grateful for the administration’s recognition of our part in keeping food moving from farm to table,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. “We will continue to monitor the implementation and application of these revised regulations and ensure that the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has access to the workers that keep our food economy going during these uncertain times.”
Dave Puglia, president and CEO of Western Growers, credited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “for taking a practical approach” to meeting the work needs of farmers while also protecting State Department personnel.
“The steps taken by Secretary Pompeo ease the flow of guest workers at a time when our farmers are redoubling their efforts to provide our nation with safe, healthy, abundant and affordable food,” Puglia said. “We are grateful to Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perdue and all those in the Administration who listened to the needs of the agriculture community in the midst of our present crisis and acted swiftly to implement this common-sense solution.”
USDA and the Department of Labor also set up a process to allow nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B workers already in the country to extend their contracts and transfer to different employers.
Details on that program can be found at http://www.farmers.gov/h2a.

More Than 3.4 Million Acres Announced In USDA’s General CRP Sign-Up

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

Omaha (DTN) – Landowners nationally will enroll more than 3.4 million acres in the general sign-up of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) announced by USDA.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced USDA had accepted offers on more than 3.4 million acres and county Farm Service Agency offices will begin notifying landowners of accepted offers no later than April 3. This year is the first general sign up for CRP since 2016.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” Perdue said. “The program marked its 35th anniversary this year, and we were quite pleased to see one of our largest signups in many years.”
Under the 2018 farm bill, Congress bumped up acreage in CRP moving the cap to 24.5 million acres this year and eventually to 27 million acres by 2023.
CRP saw 800,000 acres expire from the program last fall, but as many as 5.2 million acres are set to expire this coming September.
USDA had strong interest in the latest general sign-up despite provisions in the 2018 farm bill that also capped rental rates at 85% of a county’s current average rental rate.
While enrollment for the general sign-up ended Feb. 28, sign-ups are ongoing for continuous CRP, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), CRP Grasslands and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP).
The SHIPP also has a pilot program available for producers in the Prairie Pothole region – Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota – and enrollment for that will start March 30. Under that program, producers have the option of three-, four- or five-year CRP contracts to establish cover crops on less productive cropland in exchange for payments. This pilot enables producers to plant cover crops that, among other benefits, will improve soil health and water quality while having the option to harvest, hay and graze during certain times of the year. Up to 50,000 acres can be enrolled. Rental rates for that program differ from general CRP as well.
The land can also be harvested for seed outside of the primary nesting season, in exchange for a 25% reduction in the annual rental rate and not being insured through federal crop insurance.
All USDA Service Centers closed to walk-in visitors. USDA wants farmers to know they can set up phone appointments with the local Farm Service Agency or Natural Resources Conservation Service staffs who will work with farmers and landowners not just by phone but also email and other online tools.
FSA staff are continuing to work with producers for program signups, servicing loans or other issues, FSA stated. Along with that, FSA also is relaxing some of its loan processing rules and adding some flexibility to servicing direct and guaranteed loans, which includes extending some deadlines.
FSA and NRCS also have forms and documents available at http://www.farmers.gov/ that are accessible with an eAuth account. There’s also information for enrollment to set up an eAuth account.
USDA has more details on ways the department is managing through the coronavirus at https://www.farmers.gov/coronavirus.

Direct Receipts

Direct Receipts: 22,000

Texas 8800. 30 over 600 lbs. 20 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 Current FOB 800-850 lbs 109.00; 850-900 lbs 112.00; June FOB 750-800 lbs 119.80. Medium and Large 1-2 Current FOB 700-750 lbs 116.00; 800-850 lbs 111.00-113.96; 850-900 lbs 103.13; Current Del 550-600 lbs 122.00-136.00 Mex. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 Current FOB 750-800 lbs 114.94; 850-900 lbs 112.96; Apr FOB 800-850 lbs 106.00; June FOB 650-700 lbs 116.80; 700-750 lbs 110.80; May Del 700-750 lbs 114.50; June Del 700-750 lbs 111.80-114.50. Medium and Large 1-2 Current FOB 750-800 lbs 110.96; 900-950 lbs 94.75.

Oklahoma 300. 100 over 600 lbs. 63 pct heifers. Heifers: Medium and Large 1-2 Current FOB 750-800 lbs 124.18.

New Mexico 6400. 4 over 600 lbs. 6 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1-2 Current FOB 550-600 lbs 123.92-132.00 Mex.

Kansas 1000. 84 over 600 lbs. 61 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 Current FOB 850-900 lbs 117.17. Medium and Large 1-2 Current Del 950-1000 lbs 105.00. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 Current FOB 800-850 lbs 110.67; Apr Del 750-800 lbs 126.00. Medium and Large 1-2 Current FOB 750-800 lbs 105.13; Current Del 750-800 lbs 107.00.

National Feeder Cattle Summary

St. Joseph, MO — March 27
Receipts: 87,200

Steers and heifers sold $8-15 higher. Auction prices rebounded heartily and recovered most if not all the losses incurred March 20. The supply of feeders was light again and not near what is considered normal for this time of year. Some ranchers saw an opportunity to market cattle with higher moves (3 of 4 days being limit up moves) in Cattle Futures from March 10 to March 24. The sales that did occur in the Plains states consisted of several loads of cattle that ranchers really wanted to move a week or two earlier, but had not occurred due to the global volatility of financial markets. Demand for feeders was reportedly good to very good at markets that did have sales and some impressive prices were reported at some locations. On March 23 at Kingsville (MO) Livestock Auction, two loads of 778 lb steers sold at $158.35, while a load of 812 lb steers sold at $151. On March 25, a load of 656 lb steers at the St Joseph (MO) Stockyards sold at $164.75. The lofty prices brought on optimism to the market coupled with $118-120 fed cattle trade in the Southern Plains, $7-8 higher than the previous week. Dressed sales in Nebraska were reported at $185-190, $15 higher than March 20. Calving season is in full swing now and the Plains states are dealing with muddy conditions after several weather fronts moved through mid to late March. Slaughter cow prices skyrocketed early at auctions nationwide. Demand for boneless lean ground beef continued to move higher as cow plants needed product to move through the marketing chain to fill ground beef orders place by retailers. With most restaurants nationwide either closed or only filling carry out orders, the grocery stores have had trouble finding enough protein products to fully stock their cases. Consumers are staying in and eating all their meals at home as never before, but the uncertain nature of consumers spending will remain for a while. On March 23, NASS reported total red meat supplies in freezers were up 3 percent from the previous month and up 5 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were up 1 percent from the previous month and up 4 percent from last year. Cattle Slaughter under FI estimated at 676K for the week, 23K more than March 20 and 57K more than a year ago. The total for March 27 included a large March 21 slaughter of 75K, the largest non-holiday Saturday slaughter in the first quarter. The aggressive slaughter is a typical slaughter in the month of June, not March. Boxed-beef prices seem to be getting top heavy and movement of loads are getting back to normal. From March 20 close to March 27 report, Choice cutout was $1.64 lower at $252.11, while Select was $1.44 higher at $241.61; narrowing the Choice-Select spread to $10.50.

Texas 2500. 69 pct over 600 lbs. 52 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 400-450 lbs (421) 183.56; 600-650 lbs (622) 140.03; 700-750 lbs (729) 126.53; 750-800 lbs (756) 130.83; 800-850 lbs (837) 122.62; 850-900 lbs (888) 117.77; 900-950 lbs (917) 112.27; 950-1000 lbs (983) 105.18; 1000-1050 lbs (1022) 104.39. Medium and Large 1-2 450-500 lbs (478) 168.26; 500-550 lbs (524) 148.46; 550-600 lbs (574) 151.13; 650-700 lbs (657) 133.97; pkg 849 lbs 117.00; pkg 854 lbs 116.00. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 400-450 lbs (425) 157.96; 450-500 lbs (475) 158.24; 500-550 lbs (517) 148.57; 550-600 lbs (578) 136.61; 600-650 lbs (611) 129.17; 650-700 lbs (693) 116.01; 700-750 lbs (729) 116.74; 750-800 lbs (769) 114.34; 800-850 lbs (825) 109.86; 850-900 lbs (875) 102.72. Medium and Large 1-2 550-600 lbs (581) 129.02; 600-650 lbs (620) 124.86; 700-750 lbs (745) 112.34.

Oklahoma 9700. 87 pct over 600 lbs. 33 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 300-350 lbs (328) 197.71; 350-400 lbs (366) 204.80; 400-450 lbs (422) 182.86; 450-500 lbs (470) 173.87; 500-550 lbs (521) 166.94; 550-600 lbs (567) 156.18; 600-650 lbs (621) 147.33; 650-700 lbs (687) 140.55; 700-750 lbs (714) 136.78; 750-800 lbs (770) 131.91; 800-850 lbs (827) 128.74; 850-900 lbs (871) 124.38; 900-950 lbs (919) 118.25; 950-1000 lbs (975) 115.76; 1000-1050 lbs (1015) 115.07. Medium and Large 1-2 350-400 lbs (388) 176.28; 400-450 lbs (429) 166.64; 450-500 lbs (471) 163.16; 500-550 lbs (537) 150.22; 550-600 lbs (574) 152.72; 600-650 lbs (626) 136.31; 650-700 lbs (689) 126.06; 700-750 lbs (723) 129.49; 750-800 lbs (779) 124.19; 800-850 lbs (824) 123.49; 850-900 lbs (880) 120.84; 900-950 lbs (913) 112.62; part load 1076 lbs 111.00. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 300-350 lbs (336) 167.94; 350-400 lbs (380) 162.39; 400-450 lbs (427) 154.96; 450-500 lbs (474) 154.26; 500-550 lbs (528) 140.94; 550-600 lbs (576) 140.62; 600-650 lbs (624) 136.13; 650-700 lbs (673) 128.86; 700-750 lbs (722) 121.81; 750-800 lbs (768) 116.86; 800-850 lbs (833) 113.27; 850-900 lbs (878) 109.47. Medium and Large 1-2 350-400 lbs (378) 146.67; 450-500 lbs (477) 131.30; 500-550 lbs (522) 129.81; 550-600 lbs (581) 128.11; 600-650 lbs (626) 124.27; 650-700 lbs (684) 121.91; 700-750 lbs (738) 120.64.

Kansas 11,300. 87 pct over 600 lbs. 63 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 400-450 lbs (422) 181.76; 450-500 lbs (469) 180.42; 500-550 lbs (521) 173.74; 550-600 lbs (577) 162.44; 600-650 lbs (629) 153.66; 650-700 lbs (682) 147.45; 700-750 lbs (732) 141.51; 750-800 lbs (774) 136.89; 800-850 lbs (823) 131.92; 850-900 lbs (871) 128.87; 900-950 lbs (922) 119.01; 950-1000 lbs (963) 116.61; 1000-1050 lbs (1018) 113.35. Medium and Large 1-2 450-500 lbs (482) 154.97; 550-600 lbs (572) 145.68; pkg 628 lbs 146.00; 650-700 lbs (672) 136.22; 750-800 lbs (774) 126.51; 800-850 lbs (826) 126.54; 850-900 lbs (868) 125.12; 900-950 lbs (920) 112.95; part load 984 lbs 109.00; 1000-1050 lbs (1037) 108.97. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 350-400 lbs (369) 158.29; 400-450 lbs (422) 154.36; 450-500 lbs (482) 160.18; 500-550 lbs (536) 157.82; 550-600 lbs (574) 144.59; 600-650 lbs (628) 137.45; 650-700 lbs (680) 128.72; 700-750 lbs (719) 122.05; 750-800 lbs (776) 121.40; 800-850 lbs (821) 116.00; 850-900 lbs (881) 114.52; 900-950 lbs (918) 111.58. Medium and Large 1-2 550-600 lbs (575) 139.45; 650-700 lbs (690) 121.41; 700-750 lbs (747) 119.70.

Missouri 8400. 59 pct over 600 lbs. 35 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 300-350 lbs (332) 183.84; 350-400 lbs (374) 186.42; 400-450 lbs (428) 178.95; 450-500 lbs (478) 175.89; 500-550 lbs (524) 169.18; 550-600 lbs (574) 163.14; 600-650 lbs (622) 156.11; 650-700 lbs (669) 155.74; 700-750 lbs (719) 146.13; 750-800 lbs (782) 140.43; 800-850 lbs (827) 135.68; 850-900 lbs (889) 128.11; 900-950 lbs (923) 125.20. Medium and Large 1-2 300-350 lbs (328) 174.36; 350-400 lbs (372) 169.96; 400-450 lbs (422) 160.21; 450-500 lbs (480) 160.62; 500-550 lbs (538) 155.89; 550-600 lbs (586) 144.63; 600-650 lbs (626) 145.33; 650-700 lbs (679) 138.42; 700-750 lbs (731) 132.43; 750-800 lbs (763) 138.05; 800-850 lbs (821) 112.71; 850-900 lbs (869) 117.68. Dairy Steers: Large 3 600-650 lbs (639) 75.01; pkg 754 lbs 81.00; pkg 937 lbs 64.50; 950-1000 lbs (981) 66.00. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 350-400 lbs (378) 156.03; 400-450 lbs (426) 151.88; 450-500 lbs (472) 146.29; 500-550 lbs (523) 145.60; 550-600 lbs (577) 136.79; 600-650 lbs (626) 135.89; 650-700 lbs (672) 130.56; 700-750 lbs (718) 124.67; 750-800 lbs (765) 123.65; 800-850 lbs (829) 117.70. Medium and Large 1-2 300-350 lbs (329) 149.56; 350-400 lbs (375) 140.34; 400-450 lbs (422) 136.83; 450-500 lbs (478) 134.03; 500-550 lbs (521) 132.78; 550-600 lbs (577) 127.49; 650-700 lbs (676) 118.84; 850-900 lbs (863) 107.67.

Arkansas 2000. 14 pct over 600 lbs. 45 pct heifers. Steers: Medium and Large 1 300-350 lbs (316) 188.37; 350-400 lbs (375) 178.13; 400-450 lbs (425) 174.15; 450-500 lbs (474) 165.56; 500-550 lbs (520) 156.93; 550-600 lbs (580) 148.92; 600-650 lbs (628) 141.56. Heifers: Medium and Large 1 300-350 lbs (326) 155.72; 350-400 lbs (378) 149.13; 400-450 lbs (425) 151.49; 450-500 lbs (473) 145.65; 500-550 lbs (519) 142.20; 550-600 lbs (567) 134.31.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, April 6, 2020 10:36 AM