March 31, 2020
Last week, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package will provide financial support for the nation’s families and working people, stabilize the economy, provide relief for small business, support hospitals and schools, and protect jobs.
The bill includes nearly $350 billion for a Paycheck Protection Program to provide small business with zero-fee loans for up to $10 million. The bill also includes $10 billion in funding to provide an advance of $10,000 to small businesses that apply for an SBA economic injury disaster loan (EIDL) within three days of applying for the loan. SBA is still working through how these loans will be administered and will post guidance soon.
For agriculture, the bill provides: $9.5 billion to support farmers who are experiencing financial losses due to the coronavirus crisis, $14 billion through the Commodity Credit Corporation, $3 million to support an increase in capacity to help USDA Farm Service Agency meet increased demands from farmers, and eligibility for farmers and agricultural and rural businesses to receive up to $10 million in small business interruption loans.
Feb. 20, 2020
President Trump released details of the administration’s FY 2021 budget request. The President’s budget, A Budget for America’s Future, proposes $4.4 trillion in savings over the next 15 years. The budget cuts $48 billion in discretionary funding, including $28 billion from program eliminations and $20 billion in reductions.
For EPA, the budget requests $6.7 billion, a $2.4 billion or 26% decrease from FY 2020, cutting 50 program it considers wasteful. The budget also finds cost savings by decreasing funding for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative. The budget includes a $3,181,000 decrease in funding for FNRI.
The President’s budget provides $18.2 billion, an increase in $800 million, for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, specifically including “preventing the spread of agricultural pests and diseases” as one of the four core priorities. Additionally, there is an increase in Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection Fees. These fees are collected to recover the costs of inspection activities for international passengers, conveyances, animals, plants, and agricultural goods at point of entries. This authority established fees on five modes of international passenger and conveyance transportation: International air passengers, commercial aircraft, commercial vessels, commercial trucks, and commercially loaded rail cars.
Ag Guestworker Bill
The House voted 260 to 165 to pass H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, in December. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), seeks to improve the agricultural visa programs to better accommodate the needs of U.S. farmers and immigrant agricultural workers.
The bill includes: a requirement for Certified Agricultural Worker status applicants to show proof of agricultural employment for 180 days over the last two years; five-year renewable agricultural visas for qualified applicants with an option for permanent resident status; nationwide H-2A visa program changes; wage reform; and language to streamline the filing of applications.
U.S. Signs Phase One of Trade Agreement with China
On January 15, President Trump signed Phase One of the trade agreement with China. The pact increases farm and energy exports and additional protection for American technology and trade secrets. In the agreement, China commits to purchasing an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services.