The COVID-19 Food Assistance Program includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, ranchers and producers, and $3 billion for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat products from the farmers to redistribute through community food banks and other non-profits and faith-based organizations, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
“Having to dump milk or to plow under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing, but it’s heartbreaking as well to those who produce that,” Perdue said at a press conference on Friday. “This program will not only provide financial relief to farmers and ranchers but will allow the purchase and distribution of agricultural abundance in this country to help our fellow Americans in need.”
The USDA said in a statement that it “will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products.”
Perdue said that $6.5 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), as well as $19.5 billion in CCP virus relief funding, will be used to speed up the direct payments, “rather than wait for the replenishment of the CCC funds in July.” The CCC is a government corporation created in 1933 to support the domestic agricultural sector.
“USDA will do everything in our power to implement this program as quickly and as efficiently as possible to help our farmers, ranchers, producers, and consumers during this time of need,” Perdue said.
Trump at the press briefing on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, praised the resilience of farmers and ranchers.
“Our farmers, ranchers—these are great people, great Americans. Never complain, they just do what they have to do,” he said. “The USDA will receive another $14 billion in July to continue helping our farmers and ranchers. It’s money well deserved.”
“Not only were they targeted at one point by China—that was over a period of time—and they never complained, but that worked out really well: $12 billion they got and $16 billion they got. Now it is $19 billion,” the president continued.
The Trump administration in 2018 and 2019 authorized $12 billion and $16 billion in aid respectively to American farmers who were suffering from retaliatory tariffs imposed by America’s trading partners, which included China.
Long lines have formed at U.S. food banks in recent weeks as millions have become unemployed due to lockdowns to halt the spread of the CCP virus.
Several U.S. beef and pork packing plants have shut down as workers have fallen ill or died from the CCP virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
Smithfield Foods, for example, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday that it would shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of CCP virus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers.
Reuters contributed to this report.