Ag Policy Blog

Everyone's Writing Letters to Sonny Perdue

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at a press conference earlier this year during the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting. Perdue is now getting inundated with demands for aid. (DTN file photo)

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is incredibly popular at the moment. He's getting letters from all over the country, probably a lot of phone calls as well.

Perdue and USDA's leadership in the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) group, also are in an increasingly challenging position trying to split up a pot of money that adds up to about $15.5 billion at the moment, with another $14 billion waiting at the end of June.

Once Perdue and his team start divvying up that first pot of money, USDA leaders are going to have to reiterate again and again that USDA is not meant to make producers financially whole again.

Just Tuesday, as DTN's Todd Neeley reported pork producers could lose $5 billion this year, and they want USDA to buy $1 billion in pork for food aid, as well as provide direct aid to producers. DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom also reported a study by commissioned by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association projects $13.6 billion in losses for the cattle industry. "This study also clearly illustrates the fact that while the relief funds provided by Congress were a good first step, there remains a massive need for more funding to be allocated as soon as members of Congress reconvene," said Colin Woodall, NCBA's CEO.

Alan Bjerga, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, said on RFD-TV the dairy proposal calls for a payment of $3 per cwt, stretching from April to September, as well as reimbursement for milk spilled as well.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., wrote Perdue on Tuesday asking the Trump administration to buy as much agricultural commodities as possible for donations to hungry Americans while helping farmers manage through the pandemic.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created a $9.5 billion emergency fund for livestock and dairy producers and specialty crop growers, particularly those who sell locally. USDA received another $14 billion boost in the Commodity Credit Corp., but that cannot be used until the end of June. The CCC has been drained the past couple of years because of Market Facilitation Program payments during the trade war with China.

And Perdue keeps getting more letters. Lawmakers have been writing to ensure there is aid for specialty crops (fruits and vegetables) who have lost their business to restaurants and other food-service industries, as well as those who sell in local or regional markets. Fruit tree growers from around the country have written Perdue asking that any formula for aid include them as well, citing losses in domestic and international sales, as well as challenges with labor.

Reuters reported Monday USDA could release an initial aid package as early as this week, but there has been no official announcements from the department or its leadership.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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