Senators Want Farm Payment Caps Removed

A bipartisan group of senators wants the Trump Administration to remove the caps on the amount of direct coronavirus relief farmers can get under USDA’s new aid package. The $19 billion plan for relief, put together by President Trump and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, includes $16 billion in direct payments, which are capped at $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per person. That’s in line with payment limits from the 2018 Farm Bill.

In a letter to the president, 28 senators pointed out that the limits could disproportionately hurt some of the hardest-hit corners of agriculture. Perdue is hoping to launch the aid program in May, and the senators want the payment limits scrapped before USDA puts the finishing touches on the aid program. Northwest senators that signed the letter include Oregon’s Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkely, Washington’s Parry Murray, Idaho’s Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.

For example, fresh produce growers have higher production costs than other farmers. Strawberry growers can spend up to $30,000 an acre. The senators say that means the current payment limitations will be “too restrictive to meaningfully address the losses” they’re facing. Purdue has already said there won’t be enough money to help all sectors of agriculture, adding that getting rid of payment limitations will likely mean running out of money that much quicker.

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