House set to take up American Rescue Plan

The House is expected to take up the $2 trillion dollar COVID relief package today or tomorrow. Virtually all the amendments that would put money in producers’ pockets were stripped, but there are some provisions for agriculture.

The American Rescue Plan looks to address the pandemic hunger crisis, support disadvantaged farmers, and shore up the food supply chain. The bill includes a 15 percent boost to SNAP benefits and expands access to WIC and the EBT program to allow families with children to purchase meals while students are learning from home.

Another provision provides $5 billion dollars in debt relief for farmers of color who have faced discrimination in agriculture. Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey tried to block the funds, saying it was not pandemic-related.

“The senior Senator from Michigan called this provision an ‘important piece of reparations.’ This bill is supposed to be about COVID relief and helping the people adversely affected by the economics of the lockdown,” Sen. Toomey states. “Instead, we are handing out money based exclusively on race.”

However, Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock, who introduced the measure, successfully defended the funding.

According to Warnock, “For too long farmers of color have been left to fend for themselves, not getting the support that they deserve from the USDA making it even more difficult for them to recover from this pandemic. We have an opportunity here to lift all of our rural communities by aiming the aid where it is needed given our historic past.”

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley asked the Senate to reconsider funding for derecho damage that was included in the House version but pulled out of the Senate bill.

“That same House Agriculture Committee voted out a bipartisan bill that had the support of Congressman Feenstra of Iowa and Congresswoman Axne of Iowa and it got out of committee, and then, you know what, the Rules Committee took it out of the bill that came over here,” Grassley states. “So, I am asking for the reconsideration of that.”

His amendment was blocked by Senate Democrats, including Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, who says that disaster relief belongs in the Farm Bill.

“It should not be here. I urge a no vote because it would take away, in this amendment, critical funds to repair our broken food supply chain, support farmers, our food banks, our frontline workers, and our families in need,” she explains.

The bill also provides $4 billion dollars to respond to COVID disruptions in the supply chain, including purchasing more food for donations, funding more protective gear for food workers, and research dollars to monitor COVID-19 in animals.


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