Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters in a weekly call Tuesday that low commodity prices right now likely mean Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will soon need use that new funding authority Congress provided in the stimulus package last week.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides Perdue with $14 billion more in funding authority for the Commodity Credit Corp., (CCC) to respond to the market challenges caused by COVID-19. The bill also includes a $9.5 billion assistance program that would more directly for livestock operations, including dairy farmers, as well as specialty crop producers.
"There was a real feeling that there needed to be more authority and money in the CCC for the Secretary of Agriculture to do it," Grassley said.
Grassley noted cash corn prices at his local grain elevator was at $2.92 a bushel on Tuesday morning. Grassley said he expects there will be a separate, new payment similar to the Market Facilitation Program.
"It seems to me if things don't turn around soon that you might see more being paid out," Grassley said.
DTN reached out to USDA on Tuesday seeking an interview with the undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation about the next steps at USDA with the stimulus bill. A USDA spokesperson said no one was available to speak on the topic.
Grassley also wrote a letter to Perdue to address issue with live cattle and "address it immediately." The senator wrote that letter separate from another letter a separate group of senators wrote to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into live cattle markets. Attorney General Barr could look at processors cheating farmers out of income because of the pandemic, Grassley said.
Live cattle prices for the April contract are about 12.5% lower now than the start of March and were at about $98.50 per cwt on Tuesday. The June contract has fallen closer to 14% over the same period at was trading at $87.90 on Tuesday.
The senator also was asked if he expects a fourth stimulus or aid bill from Congress. He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and others who championed pet projects that did not make last week's $2.2 trillion package. The senator said it will take some time to determine if the current legislation is enough.
"Right now, we shouldn't talk about doing more now until we get this fully implemented and see what good this does," Grassley said, adding "We have got to get this implemented now."
Later Tuesday, President Donald Trump called for a $2 trillion infrastructure bill with a tweet, stating, "With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!"
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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