Coronavirus pandemic: Donald Trump announces $19-billion relief for farmers

FILE PIC: US President Donald Trump at The White House | Photo: AP
US President Donald Trump on Friday announced a $19-billion financial rescue package to help farmers and ranchers affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

The Trump administration's food assistance programme will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted by the pandemic, and $3 billion in purchases of food for distribution, as specified by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to The Hill, this funding will come from the $2.2-trillion coronavirus economic relief bill and separate USDA funds to support commodity prices.

"Today I'm also announcing that ... the Department of Agriculture will be implementing a $19 billion relief program for our great farmers and ranchers as they cope with the fallout of the global pandemic," Trump said during Friday's White House press briefing.

"This will help our farmers and our ranchers, and it is money well deserved," Trump said adding the USDA will receive another $14 billion in July for further assistance. He also announced, during a press briefing, that 80 million Americans have received their coronavirus relief money.

The coronavirus food assistance program will have two main missions: to issue direct payments to farmers and to purchase food to be distributed to food banks and community and faith-based organizations.

"We look forward to additional details about how the aid will be distributed," American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall said on Friday in a statement.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said US farmers have been hit hard by a sharp shift in demand, as schools and restaurants close and more Americans eat at home. That has disrupted the food supply chain, forcing farmers in many places to destroy dairy output and plough under crops that no longer have buyers.

"Having to dump milk and plough under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing, but it's heartbreaking as well to those who produce them," Perdue said.

The US farm and food industry has been hit in numerous ways by the coronavirus epidemic. Farmers are having trouble finding seasonal labourers to prepare and harvest crops; some meatpacking plants have been hit hard by Covid-19 outbreaks. 

Last month, Trump had signed into law a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to combat the coronavirus outbreak and send economic relief to workers and businesses squeezed by restrictions meant to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

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