U.S. Capitol

More Congressional aid for farmers is possible in the next round of legislation in response to the COVID-19 situation, according to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., spoke via Zoom to members of the North American Agricultural Journalists on April 27. He said he sees support building for boosting agricultural aid.

Hoeven said he is pushing to increase the authorization for the Commodity Credit Corporation from $30 billion to $50 billion. But the last government aid package, often referred to as the CARES Act, originally pushed the CCC funding up to $50 billion. That figure was chopped back to $30 billion during negotiations.

“There’s more to be done,” Hoeven said. “We need to get the $19 billion (that has already been authorized through USDA) out and working.”

Hoeven said Congress had not yet discussed aid for the ailing ethanol industry, but he questioned what the drop in oil usage might mean for the renewable fuels standard.

“I don’t know that we’re going to come up with a solution yet,” he said.

He also said livestock producers are suffering and the effort to keep meatpackers open might lead to questions about working with regulators to keep businesses open, and also about concentration in the packing industry.

“We all know there is tremendous concentration in the processing industry,” he said. “You have got a few companies controlling 80% of the whole market.”

He also conceded that as more aid is offered to farmers, there will be questions about items such as payment limitations.

And he conceded that there have been problems with the Small Business Association loans being issued through the Payroll Protection Program. That program has been criticized for allowing some large businesses to get significant amounts of money while farmers and small business owners were stuck on a waiting list.

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.