The latest coronavirus relief package known as the HEALS Act, the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability and Schools Act was recently released by Senate Republicans. The $1 trillion stimulus package allocates $20 billion for the agricultural sector. While multiple agricultural groups have expressed support for the legislation, there have also been some concerns raised about how the bill would allocate funding.
“It’s clear that farmers require additional support to stay solvent, and the HEALS Act is an important step toward providing that support,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said in a statement. “To ensure that the funding earmarked by the bill is fairly and equitably distributed, we urge congressional oversight of and greater transparency about how and to whom assistance is offered.”
The legislation would appropriate a little more than two percent of the total funding support to go towards relief for the agricultural sector. While the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has expressed support for the HEALS Act, the group notes there are still areas of need that are not necessarily covered in the legislation.
“The food and agriculture value chain cannot afford another round of band-aids for COVID-19 relief and recovery,” said NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn. “This relief package falls short of meeting the needs of the food and agriculture community.”
The stimulus package will still need to be reconciled with the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that had previously been released by House Democrats. While some concerns remain regarding both of the bills, there is a collective sense of urgency that Congress reaches a compromise to begin providing relief as quickly as possible.
“Both bills include significant funding for USDA to provide additional direct assistance to farmers,” Farm Credit Council President and CEO Todd Van Hoose said in a press release. “Farm Credit urges the Senate and House to act quickly to compromise the two bills and finalize the assistance package in the coming weeks.”