Ag Policy Blog

Debate on Nutrition and Agricultural Aid

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Senators continue to debate details of a possible aid package for the U.S. economy. Democrats are demanding nutritional aid be boosted and expanded, but a key GOP senator cautions those funds should not come from agricultural aid. (DTN file photo)

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., repeated Wednesday that he is open to increasing nutrition programs in the coronavirus aid package, but he doesn't want the money to come out of the money set aside for aid to farmers and ranchers.

Asked about statements by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that she won't support aid to farmers without an increase in federal nutrition benefits, Hoeven said in an email to The Hagstrom Report: “Under the HEALS Act proposal, we worked to provide USDA with $34 billion in funding for agriculture assistance – $20 billion in direct funding combined with the $14 billion replenishment of the CCC from the CARES Act. The language in the proposal ensures that USDA can assist farmers and ranchers, as well as processors which would enable assistance for ethanol. As negotiations continue on the next phase of COVID relief, we believe that ag assistance should be maintained, while also meeting the need for nutrition assistance. However, any increase in nutrition spending should not reduce assistance for our farmers and ranchers.”

Hoeven made the statement as congressional and White House leaders struggled to develop a broader coronavirus aid package.

The HEALS Act, developed by Senate Republicans, does not include any increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other nutrition programs, while the HEROES Act, passed by the Democratic-controlled House, does contain nutrition provisions.

Stabenow first said at a news conference last week that the Republican proposal to aid farmers and ranchers was dead on arrival without nutrition provisions, and she repeated those statements to Politico this week.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week that the word "ethanol" should be added to the text of the bill to give Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue clear direction to aid ethanol plants.

In a floor speech today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "Republicans proposed a tax break for three-martini lunches but no food assistance for hungry kids."

House Ag Members Urge USDA to Aid Sheep, Lamb Producers

House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa, D-Calif., and ranking member David Rouzer, R-N.C., House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and 17 other members urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today to assist U.S. lamb and sheep producers impacted by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the apparent closure of the nation's second-largest processor representing an estimated 20% of the nation's processing capacity.

“We ask that you use all available authorities and funding at your discretion, including as provided under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act as well as the work of the Marketing and Regulatory Programs and Rural Development mission areas, to help these farmers and ranchers find alternate processing and marketing options immediately,” the lawmakers wrote.

- Legislators' letter to Perdue:…

House Members Urge Addition of Rural Electric Measure to Aid Package

A group of House members today urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., to include H.R. 7483, S. 4152, the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, to the next coronavirus aid package.

The bill would allow electric cooperatives and small, rural telecom providers to adjust Rural Utilities Service (RUS) debt to current market rates without penalty. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the bill “will provide greater cash-flow flexibility to meet the needs of rural consumers in these challenging economic times and allow essential rural utilities to be part of the long-term recovery.”

NRECA said the bill would save co-ops more than $10 billion in interest payments on their federal debt and provide financial relief during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport


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