New pandemic relief for agriculture may be back on the table after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin agreed last week to try to resurrect failed talks with Congressional Democrats. Mnuchin said he recently spoke by phone with Speaker Nancy Pelosi after a key Democrat asked him to do so at a House hearing, where the Secretary cited earlier agreements amid rising public pressure for another attempt.
“Oh, I believe there’s enormous agreement on the PPP. I think there’s an agreement on money for schools, there may be a difference as to what it is. There’s an agreement on enhanced unemployment, going forward, there may be a slight disagreement on what the amount is, in calculation, I think there’s been an agreement on direct payments, as I mentioned earlier, there was even an agreement on postal.”
But Mnuchin was quick to point out he, Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer remain far apart on top-line numbers and doing a ‘skinny’ versus comprehensive bill.
“Unfortunately, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi do not want to sit down at the negotiating table, unless we publicly agree on a top line. My own opinion is we should go piece by piece, and any area of the legislation we can agree on, we should have the House and the Senate pass.”
House Democrats included some agriculture aid in their HEROES Act, which the Senate GOP never looked at the legislation. Senate Republicans included $20 billion in direct agriculture aid in their latest proposed bill, while USDA continues to distribute some $34 billion under the earlier CARES Act.
A “must-do” continuing budget resolution could be a vehicle for partial aid, but the American Farm Bureau Federation says a so-called ‘skinny bill’, could end up sacrificing agriculture.
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