On Tuesday, May 12th, the House Appropriations Committee announced the introduction of the HEROES Act, a new, phase four spending bill to provide aid related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation includes a broad range of funding for agricultural related programs, including $16.5 billion in additional direct payments for farmers. President Trump called the measure "dead on arrival," and the U.S. Senate has decided not to rush into a new spending bill and to take a "wait and see" approach before developing any additional aid packages.
Update (May 15): House approves the HEROES Act on a party line vote. All members of the Arkansas delegation opposed the bill citing flaws with its current form and a need to further assess the economic needs resulting from the pandemic.
Title I – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Provides $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and to cover program cost increases related to flexibilities provided to SNAP by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children
(WIC) – Provides an additional $1.1 billion to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – Includes $150 million to help local food banks meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Including funding provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), TEFAP has received a total of $1 billion.
Child Nutrition Programs – Includes $3 billion in additional funding to provide emergency financial relief to school meal providers and USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program – Provides $20 million to strengthen activities and services that connect farmers and ranchers to stress assistance resources and programs.
USDA Office of Inspector General – Provides $2.5 million to increase monitoring and oversight activities.
DIVISION F – Assistance to Agricultural Producers and Other Matters Relating to Agriculture
Prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Agriculture
Title I – Livestock
Section 60101. Ensures livestock producers are paid for their animals by requiring dealer trusts,
for the benefit of all unpaid cash sellers of livestock.
Section 60102. Provides emergency assistance to support livestock producers who are forced to euthanize market-ready livestock due to local processing plant disruptions because of COVID- 19.
Section 60103. Provides $300 million to support improved animal health surveillance and laboratories, some of which are performing COVID-19 tests in this public health emergency.
Title II – Dairy
Section 60201. Establishes a direct dairy donation program to prevent dumped milk and
facilitate rapid donations of displaced dairy products directly to feeding programs. Milk associated with donated products would be reimbursed at current Class I prices.
Section 60202. Provides necessary cash flow assistance to small and mid-sized dairies that have grown over the last seven years by establishing supplemental margin coverage based on the difference between 2019 actual production and Dairy Margin Coverage production history.
Section 60203. Authorizes an USDA recourse loan program for dairy processors, packagers, merchants, marketers, wholesalers, and distributors.
Section 60204. Reduces the cost of Dairy Margin Coverage premiums for operations that commit to participating in the program for 2021-2023 by providing a payment worth 15% of annual premium costs.
Title III – Specialty Crops and Other Commodities
Section 60301. Provides $100 million in additional funding to address COVID-19 specialty crop supply chain issues at the state level via Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds.
Section 60302. Provides $50 million in additional funding to support local farmers, farmers markets, and other local food outlets who are impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions. Temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds.
Section 60303. Provides $50 million to support beginning farmers and ranchers with financial, operational, and marketing advice in this difficult market. Temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds.
Section 60304. Provides $28 million to be distributed as block grants to State departments of agriculture for use to support existing farm stress programs.
Section 60305. Provides support for renewable fuels and cotton textile mills. Section 60306. Provides $16.5 billion for direct payments to agricultural producers.
Title IV – Commodity Credit Corporation
Section 60401. Amends the CCC Charter Act to add authority for the Secretary to deal with removal and disposal of livestock and poultry due to supply chain interruption during a public health emergency. Amends the CCC Charter Act to add authority to provide assistance to agricultural processing plants in the event of a public health emergency in order to assure the continuation of markets for agricultural commodities
Section 60402. Amends the CCC Charter Act to require Congressional notification before disbursement of CCC funding.
Title V – Conservation
Section 60501. Expands the Conservation Reserve Program Soil Health Incentive Pilot Program to 5 million acres.
Title VI – Nutrition
Section 60601. Definitions.
Section 60602. Provides $25 million for Farm to Food Bank and makes program improvements
for these additional funds.
Section 60603. Waives the non-Federal match requirement for TEFAP administrative funds.
Section 60604. Provides additional administrative flexibilities for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
Section 60605. Provides flexibilities for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
Section 60606. Increases the SNAP benefit level by 15%. Excludes the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as countable income for SNAP benefit calculation. Increases the minimum SNAP benefit to $30 per month. Waives all work requirements for SNAP and prevents funding for USDA to implement or finalize the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, and Standard Utility Allowance rules. Provides additional funding to States for SNAP administration this fiscal year, to meet the increased need for SNAP.
Section 60607. Directs USDA to allow the use of SNAP to purchase hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption from authorized retail food stores.
Section 60608. Provides flexibility for SNAP Nutrition Education.